Tough Gaza flotilla compensation talks a test for Turkey-Israel ties

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Israeli and Turkish officials meet on Monday for talks on compensation over a deadly Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla, which if successful could get the two states’ rocky relations back on track.

But demands by families of the Turks who lost their lives in the May 2010 assault by Israeli commandos look set to complicate the high-stakes negotiations.

Once-solid ties between the Jewish state and Turkey hit an all-time low after nine Turkish nationals were killed in the botched raid on a six-ship flotilla heading for the Gaza Strip.

After long refusing Ankara’s demand for a formal apology, Israel last month finally made the gesture at the urging of U.S. President Barack Obama.

But for full restoration of ties and re-appointment of its ambassador to Israel, Ankara insists the Jewish state pay compensation for the raid victims and lift its restrictions on Gaza.

The two issues will be the sticking points in the talks that begin on Monday, according to lawyers for the victims’ families.

“The families place priority on the lifting of both the embargo and the blockade on Gaza,” and want to personally verify that step, lawyer Ramazan Ariturk, representing 430 out of 450 victims’ relatives in Turkey, told AFP.

Israel imposed its blockade on Gaza in 2006 after Gaza militants seized an Israeli soldier, who was eventually freed in 2011 in a trade for 1,000 Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.

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