Foreign Ministry chief meets Turkish counterpart in sign of thaw

Dore Gold holds talks with Feridun Sinirlioglu in Rome to rebuild ties between estranged countries

Foreign Ministry Director General Dore Gold in Jerusalem, June 1, 2015. (AFP/Thomas Coex)
Foreign Ministry Director General Dore Gold in Jerusalem, June 1, 2015. (AFP/Thomas Coex)

Foreign Ministry head Dore Gold met on Monday with his Turkish counterpart in Rome in a development seen as a renewed effort to patch up chilly ties between the two countries.

It was the first such meeting between high-level officials from Israel and Turkey for over a year.

Gold, who entered his role as ministry director-general earlier this month, and Feridun Sinirlioglu discussed ways to get Israeli-Turkish relations back on track after a several-year rift that has torn asunder the once-solid alliance between the countries.

Sources said that Gold did not inform National Security Adviser Yossi Cohen of the trip.

The countries have all but cut diplomatic ties; neither Israel nor Turkey has an ambassador posted in the other’s country.

Previously warm relations were ruptured by the 2008-2009 Gaza war and were further damaged in 2010 when Israeli commandos intercepted the Turkish-flagged Mavi Marmara, the largest ship in a flotilla dispatched to Gaza by the Turkish relief agency Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH).

The soldiers were violently attacked by those on board, with several soldiers seriously injured. Nine Turks died when the commandos opened fire in what Israel said was self-defense, and one more died in hospital last year.

The incident triggered an international outcry and exacerbated already strained relations between Turkey and Israel into a full-blown diplomatic row, with Ankara demanding a formal apology and compensation.

Talks finally began in March 2013 after Israel extended a formal apology to Turkey to get relations back on track following top-level intervention by US President Barack Obama.

The talks stalled for several months, but were revived in December 2013 when Israeli negotiators traveled to Istanbul and Turkey lowered its demands for compensation.

In February 2014, media reports claimed Israel had offered $20 million for the families of those who died. And in April, then-prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a television interview that an agreement was close.

The meeting comes less than a month after parliamentary elections saw Erdogan’s ruling AKP party weakened and forced to form a coalition.

Israel is also currently attempting to head off a new flotilla setting sail to break the Gaza blockade.

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