ANKARA, Turkey (AP) - Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan suggested "normalization" of ties with Israel would take time, hinting that Turkey wanted to ensure the victims of a flotilla raid were compensated and Israel remained committed to the easing of restrictions of goods to Gaza before relations are restored between the two nations.
Erdogan's comments on Sunday came days after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the Turkish leader to apologize for the botched raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla in 2010 that killed eight Turks and one Turkish-American. Erdogan accepted the apology and both leaders said they would begin the work of restoring full relations.
But Sunday, Erdogan suggested there would be no quick restoration of ties.
"We have said: "an apology will be made, compensation will be paid and the blockade on Palestine will be lifted.' There will be no normalization without these," he said.
"Normalization will happen the moment there is an implementation. But if there is no implementation, then I am sorry."
The statement was largely seen as effort to ease concerns of his religious and pro-Palestinian support base. Erdogan has won praise both at home and the Arab world for his criticism of Israel and for breaking off ties with the Jewish state over the flotilla raid.
Turkey and Israel were once strong allies but relations began to decline after Erdogan, whose party has roots in Turkey's Islamist movement, became prime minister in 2003. Erdogan has embarked on a campaign to make Turkey a regional powerhouse in an attempt to become a leading voice in the Muslim world, distanced from Israel.
Animosity increased after the flotilla incident and ambassadors were later withdrawn. Netanyahu had previously refused to apologize, saying Israeli soldiers acted in self-defense after being attacked by activists.
Israel lifted most restrictions on the import of goods into Gaza following the flotilla incident and only restrictions on some construction materials and most exports remain in effect.