PARIS (AFP) - Turkey will not begin to restore relations with Israel unless it apologises for its savage attack on a Turkish protest vessel, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Wednesday. Israel will apologise. And Israel will have to pay compensation. And then we can start negotiating, Erdogan told France 24 television, according to the Paris-based news networks translation from the Turkish. Turkey was once Israels closest military and diplomatic ally in the Middle East, but ties began to deteriorate when Ankara criticised Israels January 2009 military assault on the Palestinian territory of Gaza. Relations then plunged into more-or-less open hostility in May of this year after Israeli naval commandos stormed a Turkish-registered protest ship, the Mavi Mara, part of a flotilla carrying activists and relief supplies to Gaza. Nine Turkish activists were killed in the operation. Israel says its boarding party opened fire when it was attacked with knives and iron bars. Turkey says the naval operation was illegal and that commandos fired on defenceless civilians. Let me say clearly that it is Israel who is responsible for the current state of our mutual relationship, and nobody should interpret it in another way, Erdogan said in the France 24 interview. How can you forgive attacks from the air and from the sea against a ship sailing under the Turkish flag and carrying passengers from all around the world who wanted to help other people? I consider it a savage attack to act like this in international waters. There is no other explanation to this, he said. Did they find any weapons? No. And they attacked these defenceless people from the air and from the sea. So there is no excuse whatsoever for such an attitude, he declared. Turkeys spat with Israel has undermined the broader Middle East peace process, by ending Ankaras role as a mediator between Israel and some of its Palestinian and Syrian opponents.