Agence France Press (AFP)
The National
July 22, 2011 - 12:00am

ISTANBUL // Palestinian officials said their foreign envoys would meet the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmud Abbas, in Istanbul tomorrow to discuss his efforts to win UN recognition of a Palestinian state.

Turkey's prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, will address the meeting and hold talks with Mr Abbas, Turkey's foreign ministry said. Mr Abbas is currently on a foreign tour aimed at lobbying world leaders to support his UN bid, amid a long stalemate in peace talks with Israel. Talks between Israel and the Palestinians have been on hold since last year after Israel refused to freeze settlement building.

This is not the first time this week that Mr Erdogan has involved himself in Palestinian affairs. On Tuesday, the prime minister said he would visit Gaza - if Israel did not apologise for over its botched 2010 raid on a ferry heading for Gaza. Yesterday, Israel said would not "take responsibility" for the deaths of nine Turkish nationals by apologising to Ankara.

Moshe Yaalon, Israel's strategic affairs minister, told reporters in Jerusalem: "We are not ready to apologise as apologising is taking responsibility. There is no room in my mind for any kind of apology that means taking responsibility," he said of the predawn raid on a six-vessel convoy which was aiming to break Israel's naval embargo on the Gaza Strip in May 2010.

However, Israel would be prepared to make a statement regretting the loss of life when its commanders stormed the Mavi Marmara, the Turkish-owned ferry which was leading the convoy.

"We are ready to regret the loss of lives," he said, repeating an offer which has been rejected by Ankara as not going far enough.

The operation sparked a major diplomatic crisis in ties between Israel and Turkey, who were once close allies, and repeated attempts to patch up relations have failed.

Media reports suggest there is increasing pressure on both sides for a final agreement that would restore once-strong ties between the two countries.

In an interview with Israel's Haaretz newspaper, a senior adviser to Mr Erdogan said Ankara was looking for a full restoration of ties and was "sorry about what happened".

"We greatly value our relations with Israel and are not thrilled with their deterioration," Ibrahim Kalin told the newspaper. He said Ankara wanted to see the return of ambassadors, new joint military manoeuvres, greater cooperation, and ministerial visits.


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