WASHINGTON, March 22 (RIA Novosti) Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu apologized Friday to Turkey over a 2010 commando raid on a Gaza aid flotilla that killed nine Turkish activists, the White House said, in a phone call brokered by US President Barack Obama and confirmed by Israeli and Turkish officials.
“Netanyahu said that he regretted that that incident had led to a deterioration in their relations,” a senior US official said of the phone call between Netanyahu and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a conversation which Obama urged and in which, the White House said, he briefly took part.
“Erdogan said he appreciated those remarks, that on behalf of Turkey, he accepted that apology,” the official told reporters travelling with Obama aboard Air Force One to Jordan, according to a transcript of the briefing released by the White House.
Officials from both Turkey and Israel confirmed the content of the phone call.
“The Prime Minister expressed Israel's apology to the Turkish people for any mistakes that might have led to the loss of life or injury and agreed to conclude an agreement on compensation/nonliability,” Netanyahu’s spokesman, Ofir Gendelman, said in a statement posted on Facebook.
A Turkish official quoted by The New York Times gave a similar account, saying: “The Israeli prime minister, in a phone call that lasted 10 minutes, apologized to the Turkish nation for all operational mistakes… and agreed to offer compensation.”
In his own statement posted on the White House website, Obama said Washington “deeply values” its close relations with both Turkey and Israel and added: “We attach great importance to the restoration of positive relations between them in order to advance regional peace and security.”
According to the White House, Obama took part in the half-hour call from a trailer on the tarmac at Ben Gurion Aiport in Tel Aviv as he concluded his three-day visit to Israel and departed for Jordan.
Israel and Turkey had a good relationship prior to the 2010 raid, but things soured after the activists were killed on a boat trying to get through Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip.
Erdogan said he would not restore diplomatic relations until Israel apologized and compensated the families of those killed.
Until Netanyahu’s Friday phone call, Israel had refused to apologize, saying the activists aboard the flotilla were responsible for their own deaths because they violently resisted Israeli commandos who boarded the ship.
Israel and Turkey on Friday agreed to normalize relations, including reinstating ambassadors.