Friday, 28 March 2014

Turkey says Israel deal close over Gaza flotilla deaths

KONYA, Turkey (AFP) -- Turkey hopes to soon close a difficult chapter with Israel sparked by a deadly commando raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla of aid ships in 2010, Turkish foreign minister told AFP.

Nine pro-Palestinian Turkish activists were killed in the Israeli assault, sparking a major crisis between the long-time regional allies and compensation claims from the victims' families.

In the diplomatic tussle since, "the gap between the expectations of the two sides is closing," Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told AFP in an interview on Wednesday.

"Progress has been made to a great extent, but the two sides need to meet again for a final agreement," he said.

Sticking points have been the amount of compensation and the legal status of the deal, but Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said earlier this week that an agreement would soon be signed.

He said that after Turkish local elections Sunday -- seen as a major electoral test for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan -- "our first job will be making sure the compensation is bound by a legal document."

Davutoglu also said that "an answer is expected from the Israeli side" to Turkey's demands. "It is our preference, whether it will be before or after the elections ... We do whatever is right at the right time." more

Settlers prepare move into key East Jerusalem site

JERUSALEM (AFP) -- Radical Jewish settlers are readying to move into a major property in the commercial heart of occupied East Jerusalem, overlooking the walls of the Old City, officials have told AFP.

A large part of the property, which also houses East Jerusalem's main post office and an Israeli police station, was purchased last year by a radical settler group called Ateret Cohanim, which bought it from Israel's Bezeq telecoms company.

Located on the corner of Salah al-Din and Sultan Suleiman in the busy center of East Jerusalem just outside the Old City walls, the property is currently being converted into a Jewish seminary, or yeshiva, an Israeli official and Palestinian workers said.

Ateret Cohanim actively works to settle as many Jews as possible in densely populated Palestinian areas in and around the Old City.

The purchase was first reported in Israel's Haaretz newspaper, which published part of an email in which Ateret Cohanim’s executive director Daniel Luria contacted supporters to announce the acquisition of more than 1,000 square meters in "a very large and strategic building" just outside the Old City. more