News / Middle East

    Israeli Visit Another Sign of Thaw With Turkey

    Turkish aid ship, the Mavi Marmara, is seen in Istanbul on May 30, 2011, one year after a Israeli raid left nine Turks dead.Turkish aid ship, the Mavi Marmara, is seen in Istanbul on May 30, 2011, one year after a Israeli raid left nine Turks dead.
    x
    Turkish aid ship, the Mavi Marmara, is seen in Istanbul on May 30, 2011, one year after a Israeli raid left nine Turks dead.
    Turkish aid ship, the Mavi Marmara, is seen in Istanbul on May 30, 2011, one year after a Israeli raid left nine Turks dead.
    Reuters
    An Israeli delegation will visit Turkey for the first time in three years next week in another sign of thawing relations since the United States brokered a breakthrough in March, but any further advancement in ties was expected to be incremental.

    Israel apologized to Turkey over the killing of nine Turks in a 2010 naval raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla and the two agreed to normalize relations in phone calls arranged by President Barack Obama on his recent trip to Israel.

    Brokering a rapprochement could bolster U.S. influence in the Middle East, help ease Israel's diplomatic isolation as it confronts the challenge of Iran's nuclear program and improve regional coordination over Syria's two-year-old civil war.
      
    But for all the diplomatic flurry, there were no illusions on either side that the relationship would be patched up as fully as Washington might hope, at least not any time soon.

    "The honeymoon period between Israel and Turkey is over,'' said Ufuk Ulutas from the Ankara-based Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research, a think tank close to the Turkish government. "Even if Israel takes other steps beside the apology, the two countries will not return to the heyday of the 1990s.''
           
    Monday's visit by the Israeli delegation, led by an adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, will focus on the question of compensation to the families of those killed by Israeli marines aboard the Mavi Marmara three years ago.

    But that was always going to be the easy part.
           
    Ankara set precise conditions for re-installing ambassadors and fully normalizing ties: an apology, compensation and Israel lifting its embargo on the Gaza Strip.

    "We had three conditions and our view has not changed. Talk of Turkey ignoring the other two conditions after the apology is nothing but rumor and not a reflection of our position,'' an official close to Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said.
           
    That leaves a resumption in ties hostage to Israeli policy towards the Palestinian enclave. Israel has made clear it did not commit to ending its Gaza blockade as part of the reconciliation, saying days after the apology that it could clamp down even harder on the enclave if security is threatened.
           
    Playing to the gallery

    The reconciliation may have fallen well short of the end to the Gaza blockade which Erdogan had routinely insisted on, but mindful of elections next year in which he hopes to run for an empowered presidency, his ruling AK Party has nonetheless presented the episode as a decisive diplomatic victory.

    Billboards thanking Erdogan for securing the apology sprang up around the capital Ankara within hours. Turkish media praised the prime minister for his "principled diplomacy'' and the "diplomatic coup'' that led to the Israeli "surrender."

    "The AK Party is focusing on the apology for domestic policy use and trying to ignore other parts of the deal,'' said Cagri Erhan, a political science lecturer at Ankara University.
           
    "The lifting of the blockade seems very unlikely and some families of victims are not ready to drop the legal case even if the compensation is paid,'' he said.
        
    Survivors of the Mavi Marmara incident said this month the apology did not go far enough and vowed to pursue Israeli soldiers in court.
        
    But so strong is the U.S. interest in a rapprochement - Secretary of State John Kerry described it as vital to regional stability - that there could be a resumption in intelligence sharing on issues, including Syria and Iran, behind the scenes.

    With so many common concerns, both Turkey and Israel are eager to keep their relationships with Washington strong.
           
    "There are huge interests here. The United States is a major player in this and it wants its allies to cooperate with it on first and foremost on Iran ... and Syria,'' senior Israeli defense official Amos Gilad told Israel Radio last month.
           
    The prospect of a rapprochement has also piqued the interest of energy investors, who see potential for a radical change in the geopolitics of the eastern Mediterranean, allowing newly discovered Israeli gas to be pumped to energy-hungry Turkey and on to other markets, undermining Russia's supply dominance.
           
    "Everything depends on our ties with Israel,'' said a senior Turkish official, asking not to be named. "We can consider such a proposal if ties are restored. But until then, all such deals have to wait.''

    You May Like

    Post-White House, Obamas to Rent Washington Mansion

    Nine-bedroom home is 3 kilometers from Oval Office, near capital's Embassy Row; rent estimated at around $22,000 a month

    Red Planet? Not so much!

    New research suggest that Mars is in a warm period between cyclical ice ages, and that during Ice Age Maximum over 500,000 years ago, the red planet was decidedly ice, and much whiter to the naked eye.

    Taj Mahal Battles New Threat from Insects

    Swarms of insects are proliferating in the heavily contaminated waters of the Yamuna River, which flows behind the 17th century monument

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora