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Report: Turkey premier plans to visit Gaza

Nov. 2, 2012 5:13 P.M. (Updated: Nov. 3, 2012 9:31 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan says he plans visit to the Gaza Strip soon, Turkish media reported Friday.

Erdogan told reporters on a plane to Ankara that Turkish authorities were in talks with officials in Gaza to arrange the visit, Today's Zaman reported.

He said he had previously proposed a joint visit to the Gaza Strip with President Mahmoud Abbas, who leads the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. "He was warm to the suggestion," Erdogan said.

In October, Qatar's emir visited Gaza, breaking the isolation of its Hamas rulers. Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani was the first head of state to visit Gaza since 1999.

Erdogan said he welcomed the emir's visit and intended to call him to congratulate him on the trip.

'Israel must lift Gaza blockade'

Erdogan reiterated that reconciliation between Turkey and Israel was conditional on the lifting of the Gaza blockade.

Bilateral relations between Ankara and Tel Aviv collapsed in May 2010 after Israel killed nine Turkish citizens on board an aid flotilla trying to break the blockade on Gaza.

The Turkish premier says ties will not be restored until Israel apologizes for the incident, compensates the families of the victims and lifts its siege of Gaza. "It is impossible that our relations will be mended unless these demands are realized," Erdogan said.

He added that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had sent "very weird" diplomats to try and normalize relations.

"We had talks with them. I also told them these three demands. In addition, I told them that all three demands must be realized. I clearly told them that Turkey is not open to options that include offering an apology and compensation but not lifting the Gaza blockade," Erdogan said.
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