Turkish PM insists on Israeli apology, end to Gaza blockade

Turkish PM insists on Israeli apology, end to Gaza blockade

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday slammed Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound Turkish aid flotilla last year and said relations will not return to normal until an apology is received.

"Until we receive an official apology for the nine Turkish citizens killed, until the families of those victims are compensated and until the blockade on Gaza is lifted, relations between our countries will not normalize," said Erdogan at a conference of Palestinian envoys being hosted in Turkey's largest city of Istanbul, Xinhua reported.

The conference was initiated with opening remarks by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan.

In 2010 Israeli commandoes raided a Gaza-bound Turkish aid flotilla led by the Mavi Marmara and killed nine activists.

Abbas said the Palestinians' bid to win UN backing for statehood was forced upon them by Israel's refusal to halt settlement building and end its occupation.

"We are going to the United Nations because we are forced to, it is not a unilateral action," he said. "What is unilateral is Israeli settlement."

Abbas also spoke on the political developments on the Palestinian arena, especially Palestinian options to go to the United Nations in September to obtain recognition of statehood.

The principal aim of the two-day conference is to rally international support for a UN General Assembly recognition of a Palestinian independent state at an upcoming UN meeting in September.

Abbas urged foreign ambassadors from the Palestinian Authority to "mobilize for the September UN bid," saying they will not be able to take time off until after September. More than 90 Palestinian ambassadors from all over the world attended the conference.

The Palestinian plan to seek UN membership for a state on the lines that existed before the 1967 War is opposed by Israel and the United States. It risks being blocked by a U.S. veto at the UN Security Council.

Talks between Israel and the Palestinians have been on hold since September last year after Israel refused to renew a freeze on settlement building.

The Palestinians have said they will not talk while Israel builds on land they want for their future state.

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