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Barak: U.S. advises qualified apology to Turkey

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The Obama administration agrees with a formulation in which Israel would apologize to Turkey for the deadly 2010 flotilla raid without accepting blame, Ehud Barak said.

Isarel’s defense minister outlined the formulation, which would have Israel apologize to Turkey for "mistakes made, if there were any" in exchange for Turkey barring legal action against the Israeli troops involved, to reporters on July 28. Barak had spent the day in meetings with National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

He told reporters that the formulation arose in his meeting with Clinton, although it was not clear whether he or Clinton initiated the idea. Barak said the Americans made the case that "if you want to defend your soldiers, make this deal."

A State Department official confirmed that the topic was raised, and said it was the Obama administration’s view that Israel and Turkey should resolve the matter, but also said the details of any such agreement are solely up to Turkey and Israel.

In his meeting with reporters, Barak endorsed the idea, and suggested it was critical to reach an agreement before the United Nations makes public a report on the May 31, 2010 commando raid on a Turkish-flagged aid flotilla attempting to break Israel’s naval blockade on the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.

"We have to weigh the results of this report, and Turkey bringing legal action against [Israeli] officers all over the world," Barak said. Nine Turks, including one Turkish American, died in the raid.

The report, by a commission headed by former New Zealand Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer, largely vindicates Israel, Barak said, without explaining how he knew this, but there are details that could leave Israeli troops open to legal action.

Turkish diplomats have said nothing less than an Israeli apology would repair the damage.

A number of ministers in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government are strongly resisting an apology.

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