Israel looks to U.S. example in trying to end rift with Turkey

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 05, 2012 1:13 PM
Israel looks to U.S. example in trying to end rift with Turkey

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel has signaled a willingness to adopt diplomatic language used to smooth U.S.-Pakistani relations in order to end its more than two-year-old rift with Turkey.

The alliance between the Jewish state and the Muslim NATO power, a mainstay of Washington's influence in an unstable region, fell apart after Israel's navy killed nine pro-Palestinian Turkish activists who tried to breach its blockade of Gaza in May 2010.

Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth said on Wednesday the United States was trying to mediate an end to the dispute, for which Turkey has set several demands including that Israel apologies for the deaths. Denying wrongdoing, Israel has offered statements of regret, rather than contrition.

Israeli and Turkish officials had no comment on the report. But Israel's hawkish foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, said on Tuesday he was open to taking a page from U.S. diplomacy in crafting a statement to try to end an impasse with Ankara.

Lieberman noted that, after the United States mistakenly killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in an air strike last November on the Afghan border, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said her country was "sorry for the losses suffered by the Pakistani military" and that Washington was "committed to working closely with Pakistan and Afghanistan to prevent this from every happening again".

Lieberman said Clinton's statement could not be called an apology, "but an expression of regret on the killing of innocents".

"I say to you if this is the wording - if the Turks accept the American wording - I will certainly go with it. This is what I am willing to accept," he told his party in a speech whose transcript was provided to Reuters.

The signal from Lieberman, a powerful partner in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's conservative coalition government, was significant because he had been among the Israeli leaders most vocally opposed to accommodating the Turks' rapprochement demands.

Turkish officials had no immediate comment on Lieberman's remarks. Ankara in the past has said it did not need a third party to mediate with Israel, saying all its communication channels were open and that if it wanted it would talk to Israel directly.

(Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch and Jonathon Burch; Editing by Michael Roddy)