Itamar Eichner
July 27, 2010 - 12:00am,7340,L-3925690,00.html

Officials in Jerusalem were surprised to learn that Turkey is working to prevent Lebanese ships from attempting to sail to Gaza in violation of an Israeli blockade on the Hamas-run territory, the Yedioth Ahronoth daily reported Tuesday.

Israeli officials estimate that Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who visited Damascus and Beirut last week, asked the Lebanese government to prevent the flotilla's departure as part of Ankara's efforts to ease tensions with Israel.

According to the officials, the change in Turkey's policy stems from its understanding that the crisis with Israel has damaged its image, as well as its ties with Washington and Europe.

On May 31 Israeli commandos raided a Gaza-bound Turkish ship. Nine Turkish nationals were killed in the incident.

In closed meetings, officials in Ankara have said that since the Turkish flotilla led to the partial lifting of Israel's blockade on Gaza, there is no point in sending more vessels to the Strip.

Turkish officials have also told the American and Europeans that Ankara is interested in restoring normal ties with Israel.

Turkey considers Israel's decision to return the vessels that were seized during the May 31 raid as a gesture aimed at improving relations.

Ankara has also praised Israel's decision to lift a travel warning for Turkey.

"There is no doubt that Turkey wants to lower its profile and let diplomacy take its course, without rescinding its demand that Israel apologize (for the raid) and compensate Turkey," an Israeli official said.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017