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Israel,Turkey discuss compensation for flotilla raid victims

By Gul Tuysuz and Ivan Watson, CNN
April 23, 2013 -- Updated 0025 GMT (0825 HKT)
The Turkish aid ship Mavi Marmara sits off the southern Israel's coast after the Israeli raid in May 2010.
The Turkish aid ship Mavi Marmara sits off the southern Israel's coast after the Israeli raid in May 2010.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Turkey, Israel discuss 2010 flotilla raid compensation
  • The meeting took place in Turkey's capital, Ankara
  • Israeli apologized last month for the deadly raid on a Gaza-bound aid ship
  • President Obama helped broker the apology

Istanbul (CNN) -- Turkish and Israeli officials sat down at the negotiating table for the first time since Israel's prime minister apologized a month ago for a deadly 2010 raid on a Gaza-bound aid ship that left eight Turks and an American dead.

The one-day talks were held in the Turkish capital, Ankara, on Monday. The two delegations discussed guidelines for determining how much Israel would compensate the families of the victims, according to Turkey's semi-official Anatolian News Agency. Further talks are likely, although an exact timetable has not been released.

Relations between Israel and Turkey, once close military and economic partners in the region, ruptured after the botched raid of the ship Mavi Marmara nearly three years ago.

Israel apologizes for flotilla raid
2011: Turkish PM speaks out on Israel
2011: UN report on flotilla incident
2010: Flotilla video tells two stories

Turkey withdrew its ambassador from Israel. Since then, Ankara has demanded a formal apology, compensation for victims, normalization of ties between the two countries, and that Israel lift its blockade on the Palestinian territory of Gaza.

During a visit to the region last month, President Barack Obama succeeded in brokering a critical phone call between the leaders of Turkey and Israel, two key American allies in the turbulent Middle East. During the call, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan accepted an apology from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

"In light of Israel's investigation into the incident, which pointed out several operational mistakes, Prime Minister Netanyahu expressed Israel's apology to the Turkish people for any mistakes that might have led to loss of life or injury and agreed to conclude an agreement on compensation/non-liability," the Israeli government said last month.

In its own official statement, Turkey said the two leaders "agreed to work together to improve the humanitarian situation in the Palestinian territories."

There are still potential obstacles to a normalization of relations between the two governments.

Turkey has been prosecuting four Israeli military commanders in absentia in connection to the Mavi Marmara raid. Also, families of the victims have said a compensation settlement will not stop their legal process against the soldiers until Israel ends its blockade on Gaza.

"We see the negotiations for compensation for those killed as disrespectful when no steps have been taken to ensure the rights of those oppressed in the Palestinian lands and while the siege of our Palestinian brothers continues," said a statement from the families.

Meanwhile, Turkish President Abdullah Gul and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas met in Istanbul for talks on regional issues, according to a statement by the office of the Turkish president.

Turkey became the first country to send an ambassador to Palestine last month, according to the statement.

Turkey and Israel have been two pro-Western political, economic, and military linchpins in the Middle East, and their falling out over the 2010 flotilla raid has hurt initiatives to tackle problems in the region, such as the Syrian civil war and tensions relating to Iran's nuclear aspirations.

The Free Gaza Movement organized the flotilla to bring goods into Gaza, and to raise awareness over what it calls Israel's "illegal siege on Gaza." Israeli commandos raided one of the ships, the Mavi Marmara, because it violated the Israeli-imposed blockade on the Palestinian territory.

More on the flotilla raid

Israel imposed the blockade on Gaza in 2007 after the militant group Hamas seized control of the Palestinian territory. It is designed to stop the smuggling of arms into the territory, the Israeli government says.

But activists say Israel's embargo of goods into Gaza from land and sea punishes civilians in the tiny and densely populated strip of land along the Mediterranean coast.

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