President of the Palestinian National Authority Mahmoud Abbas has said Turkey could play an important role in the peace process if it is able to maintain good ties with Israel, but said Israel had to accept Turkey’s demand for an apology regarding an attack on a Turkish aid ship.
“If Israel steps back from their position and apologizes to Turkey [for the killing of nine Turks on an aid ship bound for Gaza last year], Turkey could play an important role in the peace process in the Middle East,” he said during a press conference on Thursday when asked by Today’s Zaman.
“We encourage such a role” he later added.
On May 31, 2010, Israeli commandos attacked Turkish ships sailing in open waters carrying aid to Gaza, killing nine Turkish citizens, including a Turkish-American. Turkey downgraded ties with the Israeli state by withdrawing its ambassador and expelling the Israeli ambassador from Turkey.
The United Nations established an inquiry panel to examine the incident, and the UN panel’s long-awaited Palmer report was handed over to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Sept. 2. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said the report legitimized the Gaza blockade and opened the door to occupation, adding that Turkey would not accept it. Turkey demanded that Israel issue a formal apology, pay compensation to the families of the victims and end its blockade on Gaza.
Stressing that Turkey has invested a lot in the last decade or so in supporting Palestine, President Abbas said, “We knew that Turkey had had strong ties with Israel since the 1950s.” Abbas also disclosed that Turkey’s mediation for indirect talks between Syria and Israel until December 2008, when the Israeli onslaught on Gaza was launched, was done with the approval of Palestine.
“We were in the picture. We knew if Turkey succeeded in that role, it would be interest of the region,” he explained.
Earlier during the speech delivered to the assembly, Abbas asked parliamentarians at the Council of Europe (CoE) to keep putting pressure on states that are both members of the CoE and the UN Security Council.
“We also very much appreciate and are proud of the resolution adopted by the Parliamentary Assembly this past Tuesday calling on the six Council of Europe member states which are members of the Security Council to support Palestine’s request to become a full member of the United Nations,” he said.
Abbas said Palestine appreciated the fact that Europe has invested a great deal of effort and money in supporting the construction of Palestinian institutions and given its people considerable help.
06 October 2011, Thursday / ABDULLAH BOZKURT , STRASBOURG