Turkish PM plans Palestine visit after Israeli raid apology

AFP , Saturday 23 Mar 2013

Turkish primer says that will visit the West Bank and Gaza in April, a day after a breakthrough apology from Israel for the deaths of nine Turks during a raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla in 2010

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced Saturday he would visit the Palestinian territories in the next month, a day after a breakthrough apology from Israel for the deaths of nine Turks during a raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla.

"It is possible that I will visit Gaza and the West Bank during the course of this month or the next," state news agency Anatolia quoted Erdogan as telling journalists during a train trip to western Turkey.

He added "all of that would of course be to help the process" of lifting an Israeli embargo on Palestine promised by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday, as part of the apology to Turkey accepted by Erdogan.

The Israeli leader apologised for the 2010 raid and announced the resumption of full diplomatic ties between his country and its former close ally after a three-year rift. He also pledged to continue lifting restrictions on goods entering Palestine "as long as calm prevailed".

Taher al-Nunu, spokesman for Ismael Haniyeh, the head of the Hamas government in the Gaza, confirmed that "Recep Tayyip Erdogan will soon visit the Gaza Strip where he will meet with Prime Minister (Haniyeh)".

Nunu said that Erdogan had called exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal "to tell him Israel had accepted Turkey's conditions: apologies for the murder of the Turkish militants, recognition of (Israel's) responsibility and the lifting of the embargo".

Ties between Israel and Turkey plummeted in May 2010, when Israeli commandos staged a botched pre-dawn raid on a six-ship flotilla to Gaza, killing nine Turkish nationals and triggering an international outcry and a bitter diplomatic crisis between Turkey and Israel.

A cautious Erdogan said Saturday Turkey's future diplomatic relationship with Israel -- including the appointment of a new ambassador to Israel, the last one having been withdrawn by Ankara over the raid -- would depend on the Jewish state.

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