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Mar 26, 2013 No Comments ›› Jake Hammer

Excerpted from HAARETZ:

In the wake of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s apology Friday to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan over the deaths of nine Turkish activists aboard the 2010 Gaza flotilla, the two countries have set the wheels in motion to pay compensation over the deaths, with Israel set to pay out as much as tens of millions of dollars, according to sources in Turkey.

High-level diplomatic contact between the two countries began on Monday when Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu spoke with Justice Minister Tzipi Livni over the establishment of a joint committee that will formulate the terms of Israel’s agreement to pay compensation.

The vice prime minister of Turkey, Bulent Arinc, told journalists on Monday that both sides agreed to establish a joint high-level committee over the coming days to discuss the details of the compensation transfer.

Beyond the technical and legal questions over the compensation payments, the waiver of the legal claims and the extent of the blockade on Gaza, the Palestinian issue – rather than the Syrian one – will continue to be the focus of future relations between the two countries. The Turkish foreign minister made int clear during Tuesday’s Arab League summit in Doha that Turkey will continue to stand with the Palestinian people and will act in order to end Israeli occupation. In Turkey, they estimate that the three-year long rift caused by the “Palestinian question” now gives Turkey leverage, and that the nature of the relationship between it and Israel will be largely dependent upon Israel’s behavior towards the Palestinians.

As for Syria, Israel and Turkey see its future differently. While Israel is concerned by the possibility that Assad’s rule may fall and be replaced by an extremist Islamic regime, or that the state may be dismantled by armed forces that will control different sections, Turkey estimates that the Syrian opposition, which will also include Islamic movements, will be able to lead Syria and will not be a threat to the region.

Turkey, which started a process of national reconciliation with the Kurds, estimates that this reconciliation is likely to widen its influence on the Kurdish minority in Syria, which will be a significant force in the country’s political developments. A Turkish political source told Haaretz that Turkey does not see Israel as a factor that can help resolve the crisis in Syria or participate in the battle against chemical weapons stockpiles if such a battle develops. “Israel’s importance regarding Syria is in intelligence sharing, not joint conduct of the battle in Syria,” said the source.

On the Turkish side, the committee will be led by Turkey’s Undersecretary of the Foreign Ministry Feridun Sinirlio?lu, who has also served in the past as ambassador to Israel.

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