Ankara and Jerusalem are close to reaching an agreement to compensate Turkish activists killed in a 2010 Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla, a ruling party official said Monday.
The two former allies fell out after the 2010 Israeli naval raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla killed 10 Turkish citizens aboard the ship Mavi Marmara, exacerbating a freeze in relations between the two countries. Closed door talks in recent months have tried to reach a detente between Ankara and Jerusalem, however.
“The point has been reached in the talks at which (an agreement) can be signed,” AK Party spokesman Omer Celik told Haber Turk TV. He didn’t comment on whether progress was reached on lifting Israel’s security blockade on the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, another demand Turkey has made.
A Foreign Ministry spokesman said he couldn’t comment.
Last week Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said there was progress in reconciliation talks between Israel and Turkey after the negotiating team dispatched by Jerusalem returned home from Switzerland.
The two sides met Wednesday in Geneva, as part of ongoing efforts to reach a détente between the once-close allies.
According to the PM’s office, just a few issues remain unresolved, and they will be discussed in the next meeting, which will take place in the near future, Channel 10 TV reported.
According to a high-ranking Israeli official quoted by Haaretz earlier in the week, the last two hurdles are Turkey’s demand that Israel end or ease its military blockade on the Hamas-run Gaza Strip — designed by Israel to prevent Hamas importing weaponry — and Israel’s demand that Turkey put an end to the Hamas presence in its capital.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said Thursday that it seemed unlikely an agreement could be reached while Turkey insisted on hosting Palestinian terror group Hamas’s external offices.
After being expelled from Gaza by Israel five years ago, senior Hamas official Salah Arouri set up offices in Ankara, and commenced gathering funds and planning terror attacks, including the abduction and murder of three Israeli teenagers in 2014.
The Israeli team at the talks was led by Joseph Ciechanover, a former head of the Foreign Ministry appointed by Netanyahu. Ciechanover also represented Israel at the UN probe into the IDF raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla in 2010, which led to the deaths of 10 Turkish nationals and exacerbated a freeze between the two countries. The Turkish team was headed by Foreign Minister Feridun Sinirlioğlu, Haaretz said.
The current talks continue attempts to re-normalize Jerusalem-Ankara relations after Netanyahu, prompted by US President Barack Obama at the end of his visit to the region in 2013, apologized for the flotilla deaths.
“We strive for peace with all our neighbors, but it has to be mutual,” Netanyahu said Tuesday during a tour of the Arava in southern Israel.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who last month signaled his readiness to mend ties with Israel, on Tuesday hosted a delegation of US Jewish leaders at his official Ankara residence, including a Netanyahu confidant who had met with the prime minister in Jerusalem ahead of the Ankara trip.