A compensation deal between Israel and Turkey that will pave the way for reestablished ties has been reached, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Sunday during an interview on American television.
Erdogan, speaking to PBS’s Charlie Rose, said the deal, which would lead to “normalization,” would be signed in the coming weeks.
Israeli sources confirmed on Tuesday that a deal was close.
Israel and Turkey have been for several months negotiating a compensation agreement for the families of nine Turks who died aboard the MV Mavi Marmara in May 2010 after an Israeli raid to stop the Gaza blockade-busting vessel.
“With the completion of this stage, we may move toward a process of normalization. I have spoken with my colleagues in the Foreign Ministry and I think it is a matter of weeks,” Erdogan said, according to a PBS translation of the interview.
“I hope that another black cat will not walk by,” he added.
Erdogan stressed that the first step for normalization with Israel would be the returning of ambassadors to Ankara and Tel Aviv.
Israeli officials quoted by Army Radio on Tuesday confirmed that a deal with Turkey was close and that it would include a $20 million compensation package for the families of Mavi Marmara victims. The unnamed officials said Israel was also waiting for assurances from Ankara to the effect that the deal would guarantee an end to legal action against Israel in Turkey over the incident.
Talks on compensation began in March 2013 after Israel extended an apology to Turkey in a breakthrough phone call brokered by US President Barack Obama during his visit to Israel.
Erdogan thanked Obama for his efforts “that led to Netanyahu’s apology” in the Monday interview.
The interview, conducted via a translator on PBS, covered a wide range of topics, including the Turkish prime minister’s position on Syria, the Armenian genocide, and recent corruption charges levied against top ministers in the ruling AK party, including Erdogan’s own son.
Diplomatic ties between Israel and Turkey were cut in 2010 after a deadly Israeli commando raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla of ships, including the Marmara. Israel said its soldiers were defending themselves after being attacked with deadly force upon boarding the ship.
The incident triggered an international outcry and exacerbated already strained relations between Turkey and Israel into a full-blown diplomatic row, with Ankara expelling the Israeli ambassador and demanding a formal apology and compensation.
On Monday, Turkish daily Hurriyet reported that the deal was being delayed by Netanyahu for domestic political reasons.
Marissa Newsman and AFP contributed to this report.