Erdogan: No Normalization Unless Israel Apologizes over Flotilla Raid

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Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday it was "unthinkable" for Ankara to normalize relations with Israel until it apologized over its bloody raid on a Turkish ship heading for Gaza.

"As long as Israel does not apologies to Turkey, pay compensation to the families of the victims and lift its blockage on the Gaza strip, a normalization of relations is unthinkable," he said at the opening of a meeting of Palestinian ambassadors in Istanbul in the presence of President Mahmoud Abbas.

Erdogan accused Israel of perpetrating a "barbaric massacre" and "shooting in the back" the nine unarmed Turkish activists killed when Israeli commandos stormed a Turkish ferry leading a flotilla which was attempting to break Israeli's naval embargo on Gaza in May 2010.

After the raid, which was carried out in international waters, Turkey recalled its ambassador in Tel Aviv and warned bilateral relations would "never be the same again."

On Thursday, Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Yaalon insisted that Israel would not "take responsibility" for the deaths.

"We are not ready to apologize, as apologizing is taking responsibility," he told reporters in Jerusalem.

"We are ready to regret the loss of lives, we are ready to create a kind of humanitarian voluntary fund," he said, explaining that if such a fund were set up by Ankara, Israel would be prepared to pay money.

But he said there would be no official apology nor direct compensation offered to the families of those killed or injured.

"A voluntary fund is acceptable, but compensation... means that you are responsible," he said.

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