Turkey needs Israel, says Erdogan

ISTANBUL – Turkey must accept that it needs Israel, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Saturday, as the two countries seek to thrash out a deal on normalising ties.
NATO member Turkey was a key regional ally of Israel until the two countries fell out over the deadly storming by Israeli commandos in 2010 of a Turkish aid ship, the Mavi Marmara, bound for Gaza.
Erdogan further raised hackles in Israel with his sometimes inflammatory rhetoric towards the Jewish State.
But the atmosphere has transformed following the revelation last month the two sides were making progress in secret talks to seek a rapprochement, says
“Israel is in need of a country like Turkey in the region,” Erdogan said in remarks to Turkish reporters published in leading dailies Saturday.
“And we too must accept that we need Israel. This is a reality in the region,” said Erdogan.
“If mutual steps are implemented based on sincerity, then normalisation will follow.”
Ambassadors were withdrawn in the wake of the 2010 crisis and Erdogan said Turkey’s three conditions for a normalisation were clear — a lifting of the Gaza blockade, compensation for the Mavi Marmara victims and an apology for the incident.
Israel has already apologised and negotiations appear to have made progress on compensation, leaving the blockade on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip the main hurdle.
Indicating possible progress on the blockade, Erdogan said Israel had suggested it would allow goods and construction materials into Gaza if they came via Turkey.
“We need to see a written text to ensure there is no deviation from the agreement,” he said.
Analysts have suggested that Turkey’s rapprochement with Israel has been accelerated by the need for Ankara to make up for its crisis in ties with Moscow after the shooting down of a Russian warplane.
Erdogan last month held closed-door talks with Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal but it was never disclosed what the president discussed with the leader of the the Palestinian Islamist movement.
Israel also wants Turkey to prevent senior Hamas operative Salah Aruri from entering its territory and acting from there.
Ankara has never confirmed his presence in Turkey.
Moreover, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday backed the opening of a criminal probe into the leaders of Turkey’s main pro-Kurdish party, saying they should “pay the price” for remarks pressing for autonomy for the country’s largest ethnic minority.
Erdogan also suggested Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag — the co-leaders of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) should have their parliamentary immunity removed for the investigation into their “constitutional crime”.
Turkish prosecutors last week opened a criminal probe against Demirtas for his comments at a conference and then opened a similar investigation against Yuksekdag.
Making no pretence at staying away from judicial matters, Erdogan said: “What the two co-leaders said is definitely a constitutional crime.
” The closure of the party should not be on the agenda but MPs and local mayors needed to be investigated, Erdogan told reporters on board his presidential plane in remarks published in leading newspapers including the Hurriyet daily.
“They should pay a price for it,” he said.
“I believe that the lifting of immunity of those against whom the cases have been initiated will help the atmosphere in our country in the fight against terror in a positive way.” “We cannot accept statements calling for the country to be broken up.
We will never agree to a state within a state.
“Demirtas said last weekend that Kurds in Turkey had to decide whether to live in autonomy or “under one man’s tyranny”, in an apparent reference to Erdogan.
His remarks outraged nationalists who believe any degree of autonomy for Turkish Kurds in the southeast would undermine the unitary nature of the modern Turkish state set up by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in 1923.
The Turkish strongman had earlier condemned the remarks as “treason” but this is the first time he has suggested Demirtas and Yuksekdag should stand trial.
The probe comes amid rising tension between the authorities and many in the Kurdish minority over the military’s relentless campaign — backed by curfews — against rebels from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the southeast.
Demirtas emerged over the last year as a key rival of Erdogan, with many commentators saying he is the only politician in the country to rival the charisma of the Turkish leader.

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