Israel has reportedly reprimanded its consul-general to Turkey for a series of comments made in the press regarding the ongoing efforts towards reconciliation between Ankara and Jerusalem.
The negotiations should be able to weather a political upheaval in Ankara and are drawing ever closer to reaching an agreement, Shai Cohen predicted to reporters on Monday.
An official in Jerusalem said that Cohen was not involved in the negotiations and was not authorized to speak about them, according to Israel Radio.
Talks were still ongoing and are significantly motivated by regional security concerns, in particular the Islamic State and other jihadist groups in Syria, a country bordering both Israel and Turkey, Reuters reported.
Last week Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said he would quit his jobs of ruling party chief and head of government later in the month over divisions with the country’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The development was likely to stymie domestic and foreign policy activities until a new government is formed on May 22 only after which Israeli and Turkish negotiators can meet again.
“The reconciliation process between Israel and Turkey has reached an advanced momentum,” Cohen said. “We hope the reconciliation process won’t be affected by the political shift in Turkey.”
“I believe it will take another round or two in order to conclude the deal … Most of the issues between Israel and Turkey are already — to a certain extent — clear.”
However, a return to the kind of military cooperation that Israel and Turkey enjoyed in the 1990s would take time, he cautioned.
An agreement would come almost six years after a deadly 2010 IDF raid on a Gaza-bound Turkish ship attempting to breach the blockade. Ten Turkish citizens were killed during a melee aboard the vessel between knife- and club-wielding activists and Israeli commandos. The incident led to a nosedive in bilateral relations, which were already tense over Israel’s military policy in Gaza.
Turkey has demanded an immediate apology for the raid, compensation for the victims’ families and the lifting of the blockade on the Gaza Strip before normal relations can resume.
Lifting the blockade on Gaza is a “non-issue,” Cohen stressed and explained that negotiations are looking at bringing goods overland into Gaza, where about half the building goods come from Turkey.
Talks have been ongoing for months and are expected to include compensation for the Turkish victims of the flotilla raid and some relaxing of the blockade on the Gaza Strip, according to the Reuters report which was published Tuesday.
Another area of interest is supply of natural gas from Israel’s offshore Leviathan field that holds an estimated 500 billion cubic meters of gas.
“Everyone is looking forward to see how Israel can export to Turkey, and through Turkey to the West, natural gas,” Cohen said.
According to a Globes report on Monday Turkey wants half of the field’s supply to meet its own energy needs while a future project could see Israeli gas exported to Europe via a Turkish pipeline.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.