UN delays release of flotilla report at Israel’s request

A UN panel investigating a bloody Israeli interception of an aid flotilla on May 31, 2010, has postponed, once again, the release of its findings to allow for further efforts for Turkish-Israeli reconciliation.
The request for the delay came from Israel, officials said. The report was first expected to be released on July 7, but was postponed to July 27 to provide an opportunity for closed-door negotiations between Turkey and Israel on normalization of their relations to succeed. However, those negotiations failed to produce a solution. The UN panel’s report is now expected to be released on Aug. 20.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, a proponent of reconciliation with Turkey, said on Sunday that he hoped the repeatedly deferred publication would again be pushed back “to provide more time to examine matters in-depth.”

Meanwhile, Turkey and Israel are preparing for a new round of discussions on reconciliation. Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioğlu is set to travel to New York for talks with Israeli officials on Tuesday.

Turkey scaled down its relations with Israel after Israeli commandos killed eight Turks and one Turkish-American on one of the ships that took part in the aid flotilla, the Mavi Marmara. Turkey wants an apology for the bloody raid, a demand that has created rifts within the Israeli Cabinet.

On Sunday, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, a strong opponent of an apology, said he would not resign if the government decides to apologize to Turkey. “Whether or not there is agreement in the government about this matter, this government is strong,” he told reporters. “No one is looking for excuses and reasons to leave the government.”

Israel’s debate over apologizing to Turkey has been spurred by its expectation that the UN report on the high seas interception will largely vindicate its Gaza blockade strategy. But Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan, who has shown willingness to engage Hamas, the party that runs Gaza, on Saturday reiterated his view that the blockade is “illegal and inhuman” and insisted Israel must end it as another condition for rapprochement.

“He’s not exactly making it easy for us to apologize,” an aide to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Reuters in response.

(www.todayszaman.com / 26.07.2011)

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