A senior official in the Turkish government says that the country’s eroded ties with Israel will be normalized again soon, with a return of ambassadors following immediately after, Turkish newspaper Hurriyet reported Saturday.
The breakthrough in restoring frayed relations between the former allies came last month, when officials from the two sides held a secret meeting in Switzerland, on the heels of a declaration by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that he would like to see the breach healed.
Ties between Jerusalem and Ankara broke down after the Israeli Navy intercepted a May 2010 flotilla led by the Mavi Marmara, which was seeking to breach Israel’s security blockage on the Hamas-run Gaza Strip. The Israeli raid ended with nine dead Turkish activists and dozens wounded, after the Naval commandos were attacked with clubs and poles as they boarded the vessel. Another activist died in May 2014, after a four-year coma.
Tensions between the countries, which had already been high, escalated further, and Erdogan, then the prime minister, recalled his ambassador. Israel recalled its own ambassador in retaliation and Turkey also began legal proceedings against senior IDF officials, including then-chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi and then-Navy commander Eliezer Marom.
According to an official in the Prime Minister’s Office, the agreement worked on in December provides for both countries to return their ambassadors; a cancellation of pending lawsuits against IDF soldiers; the establishment by Israel of a fund for the welfare of victims of the 2010 Mavi Marmara raid; a Turkish commitment not to tolerate any “terrorist activities” on its sovereign territory; Turkey barring from its soil Salah Arouri, a Hamas operative who allegedly orchestrated the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teens in the West Bank in June 2014; Turkey allowing Israel to lay down a gas pipeline on its soil; and the opening of immediate negotiations on the sale of natural gas from Israel to Turkey.
According to Hurriyet, the Turkish official says that Arouri has not been in Turkey “for a long time,” and even suggested that the Hamas operative had moved to the country with the knowledge and approval of Israel. “He stayed in Turkey because Israel said he could,” the paper quoted the official as saying.
The source said that the agreement between the two countries will be signed “very soon,” as “only one or two nuances remain that need to be fixed.”
The exchange of the ambassadors will take place “immediately… after the agreement is signed,” he official said.