Israel feeling US heat over Turkey crisis

AFP , Wednesday 17 Aug 2011

Israel is coming under US pressure to apologise to Turkey over its 2010 commando raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla that killed nine Turkish activists

 An Israeli daily, Yediot Aharonot said  on Wednesday that Israeli diplomats in Washington handed their government a message from US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton saying the Israel-Turkey crisis was interfering with US attempts to deal with the bloodshed in Syria.

A similar message was given to Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak when he visited Washington in late July, when Clinton asked him to do everything in his power to resolve the crisis -- "including apologise," the paper said.

In May 2010, Israeli commandos stormed a Turkish ferry leading a six-ship flotilla attempting to break Israel's naval embargo on the Gaza Strip. The botched operation left nine Turkish nationals dead and sparked a huge diplomatic crisis with Ankara, which immediately recalled its ambassador.

Since then, Turkey has demanded an Israeli apology for the bloodshed, as well as compensation for the victims' families. Israel has steadfastly refused, although privately officials acknowledge that restoring the once-strong relationship with Ankara would be desirable.

The United States is looking to deepen its ties with Turkey, which shares a border with Syria, in a bid to better handle Syria's spiralling violence, and hopes an Israeli apology would facilitate that, the Yediot said.

A UN report into the flotilla affair, whose publication has been postponed at least twice this year in order to give the two sides time to reconcile their differences, is due to be released on August 20.

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