Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan ruled out restoring ties with Israel until it permanently halts strikes against the Palestinian Gaza Strip and removes an “inhumane embargo” on the territory.
Relations between the two former regional allies have been strained since nine Turks aboard an aid flotilla headed for Gaza in 2010 were killed during an assault by Israeli commandos. A tenth died recently in hospital. Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said earlier this year that the countries were close to finalizing an agreement to allow ambassadors to return.
“A cease-fire is not enough,” Erdogan told lawmakers of his ruling party during a televised weekly address in parliament in Ankara today. “The inhumane embargo targeting Gaza must be lifted immediately,” he said. “Normalization of our ties is impossible while massacres in Palestine continue and children get killed.”
Israel today accepted a proposal from Egypt’s government to halt its week-long battle with militants in the Hamas-ruled Gaza while warning it would broaden its offensive if armed groups didn’t hold their fire. Palestinian groups responded to the truce call by barraging Israel with rockets.
Weeks of Israeli air strikes against Gaza rocket squads killed at least 192 Palestinians, including dozens of children and civilians, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. More than 1,000 rockets were fired at Israel during that time. A tourist in Jerusalem died of a heart attack during one air raid.
Erdogan accused Israel of conducting “state terror” and a “genocide attempt,” comments that are likely to indefinitely push back efforts at reconciliation. The Turkish premier criticized “the West” for doing too little to stop the fighting.
Israel occupied Gaza for 38 years and continues to subject the territory to an economic embargo after its withdrawal in 2005. Israel, like the U.S. and European Union, considers Hamas a terrorist group.
Turkey’s ties with Israel frayed badly over Erdogan’s repeated denunciation of Israel’s 2009 war in Gaza, which included him walking off a stage he shared with Israeli President Shimon Peres at the 2009 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
Ankara’s latest push to mend its relationship with Israel came as ties elsewhere in the Middle East deteriorated. Erdogan’s government criticized Gulf states for not standing by Egypt’s ousted President Mohamed Mursi and saw itself alienated by rulers of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.