Tan: "If Israel doesn't take the first step, relations with Turkey won't improve"
Turkish Ambassador to Washington Namik Tan on Wednesday urged Israel to take necessary steps to restore ties with Turkey, warning that otherwise it could lose a key friend in the region. Commenting on the slide in Turkish-Israeli ties since Israel's deadly May 31 raid on the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara aid ship, Tan told a conference given by US think-tank the Potomac Institute, "If Israel fails to see that it's on the brink of losing one of its closest friends in the region, and doesn't act accordingly, putting our ties back on track will be impossible." Tan said Israel's attack, which took the lives of eight Turks and one Turkish-American, was the first time Turkish citizens were killed by a sovereign state during peacetime in the history of the Turkish Republic. "Moreover," he added, "that attack came from a friendly country. I think you appreciate how surprised we were at the attack." Reiterating Turkey's demand that Israel officially apologize and compensate the victims' relatives, Tan said he couldn't understand Israel's refusal, adding that in 1992 the US government apologized and paid compensation to Turkey after mistakenly targeting a Turkish battleship during a NATO exercise. Stressing that Israel must take the first step to mend ties with Turkey, Tan said issuing an apology wouldn't constitute a stain in ties between the two countries.