Israel FM says no apology to Turkey over flotilla deaths

Israel FM says no apology to Turkey over flotilla deaths

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Wednesday reiterated his position against extending Turkey an official apology for a naval raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla that resulted in the death of nine activists in May last year, Xinhua reported.

Addressing the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Lieberman said that while Israel was preparing to make a compromise that would mend the diplomatic falling out with Turkey, it could not agree to accept "humiliation."

"We are all for ending the friction with Turkey but we are not willing to accept dictates. An apology is not a compromise. It is a humiliation and an abandonment of Israeli soldiers," Lieberman said.

He added that although Israel regretted the losses of life in the first Gaza-bound flotilla, "national honor carries real significance. We expect the Turkish side to also show flexibility. "

The foreign minister's comments came as Israeli and Turkish officials were engaged in an 11th-hour joint effort to find a compromise ahead of the imminent publication of a UN-commissioned report on last year's flotilla.

Israeli Vice Premier Moshe Ya'alon met with senior Turkish officials in New York on Tuesday to discuss ways of overcoming differences. The UN report, due to be released on Thursday, will be toned down if a compromise on its wording is reached. Failure to reach a compromise is likely to extend the crisis in bilateral ties.

The Ha'aretz daily on Wednesday quoted a senior Israeli diplomatic source who has read the draft of the UN committee report as saying that "we are at a critical stage."

According to the source, the report concludes that while Israel 's maritime blockade of the Gaza Strip was legal, the commandos that intercepted the Turkish vessel which attempted to breach it had resorted to disproportionate force.

The report is also said to contain criticism of Ankara's role in the flotilla, mainly its ties with the IHH, the group that led the event.

Israel has said it would provide financial compensation to the families of the activists who were killed but has thus far stood firm in its refusal to issue a formal apology.

Commenting on the Palestinian bid to unilaterally attain recognition of a state in the UN Security Council later this month, Lieberman warned that Israel will be forced to reciprocate the move with unilateral steps of its own.

"The Foreign Ministry has prepared a basket of possible responses to present to the government," Lieberman said.

He did not elaborate on what Israel has in store in case the Palestinian UN bid were to succeed. Earlier this year, however, Lieberman, as well as a host of right-wing Israeli legislators, said that annexation of parts of the West Bank is one option.

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