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Palestinian FM welcomes Israeli-Turkish reconciliation ahead of aid delivery to Gaza

June 27, 2016 4:25 P.M. (Updated: June 28, 2016 12:10 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- The Palestinian Foreign Ministry welcomed the normalization of relations between Israel and Turkey that was announced early Monday afternoon, while voicing the importance of involving the Palestinian government in all matters concerning the Palestinian people.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki told Ma’an on Monday in Ramallah that the Palestinian government would not intervene in the terms of the agreement or in Turkish affairs. However, he insisted that the terms of the agreement directly related to Palestinians, and the Gaza Strip in particular, involve the Palestinian government.

The agreement, which included Israel’s approval of Turkish aid to reach the blockaded Gaza Strip, was welcomed by the Palestinian government, "as long as it's not conditional,” al-Maliki said.

In regard to initial reports that Turkey would also be allowed to build a power station and a refinery in the Gaza Strip, al-Maliki welcomed the move, "as long as everything is coordinated” with the Palestinian government.

The reconciliation was officially announced Monday afternoon, Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported. The normalization of relations ended six years of diplomatic strife, which was sparked by an Israeli attack on the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara, which led the first Freedom Flotilla aimed at lifting the Israeli-imposed siege on the Gaza Strip.

The deadly attack, in which ten Turkish activists were killed, sparked international outcry as Israeli naval forces attacked six ships part of the Freedom Flotilla attempting to access the besieged Gaza Strip to deliver much-needed international aid on May 31, 2010.

An official Israeli source told Haaretz the agreement included a commitment by Turkey to pass a law voiding all old lawsuits against the Israeli soldiers that participated in the raid on the aid flotilla.

No Israelis were ever charged for the killings on the Mavi Marmara ship, despite a case being filed at the International Criminal Court (ICC) charging Israeli officials with war crimes.

Israel also has also agreed to compensate the families of the 10 Turkish citizens killed by Israeli forces during the flotilla raid with $20 million.

In a press conference following the announcement, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu affirmed that Israel would maintain the near-decade-long blockade on the Gaza Strip, while Turkey had agreed to give up on its demand that the blockade be lifted.

Meanwhile, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said in a press conference that the reconciliation "largely" lifted the Israeli blockade, adding that a delivery of 10,000 tons of aid would be delivered to the besieged coastal enclave on Friday.

The agreement also permits Turkey to build infrastructure projects in the Gaza Strip, including a 200-bed hospital, a housing project, power station, and a desalination plant in Gaza, under the condition that materials go through the Israel’s Ashdod port.

Turkey also committed to ensuring that no attacks be committed against Israeli targets originating on Turkish soil, as Israel in the past has alleged that a Hamas command base is located in the Turkish city of Istanbul -- claims Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has routinely denied.

Meanwhile, Turkish officials claimed that in addition to the aid Turkey has promised Gaza, the new deal between Turkey and Israel would make it possible for Turkey to launch major projects in the occupied West Bank, including an industrial zone in the northern district of Jenin.

The Gaza Strip has suffered under an Israeli military blockade since 2007, when Hamas was elected to rule the territory.

Residents of Gaza suffer from high unemployment and poverty rates, as well as the consequences of three devastating wars with Israel since 2008.

The UN has warned that unless current trends were altered, the Gaza Strip could become uninhabitable for residents in fewer than five years. "The social, health and security-related ramifications of the high population density and overcrowding are among the factors that may render Gaza unlivable by 2020," the UN's development agency said last year.

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