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Minister close to PM: Most of Turkey reconciliation deal is done

Yuval Steinitz says both sides have ‘considerable interest’ in finalizing terms

Yuval Steinitz. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Yuval Steinitz. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Most of the issues in a reconciliation agreement between Israel and Turkey have been agreed upon, Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said Saturday, expressing the hope that a deal would be finalized soon.

Speaking at a cultural event in Holon, Steinitz, who is seen as close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said he did not want to get into the specifics of the agreement but that both sides “have a considerable interest” in reaching agreed terms.

Asked about the question of a seaport for the Gaza Strip, Steinitz said the issue had not been discussed in the talks. (A Channel 10 report which said this issue, too, had been resolved was inaccurate, his office said.)

Steinitz’s comments came two days after a senior adviser to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Israel has agreed to the opening of a naval route between Turkish Cyprus and Gaza.

The adviser, Arshad Hormuz, also told a Hamas-run media outlet in Gaza that Israel has agreed to fully lift the blockade on Gaza as part of the agreement between Jerusalem and Ankara, which is reportedly set to be finalized in the coming weeks. Hamas, which is internationally recognized as a terrorist organization, has had control of Gaza since a bloody 2007 coup.

Hormuz added that only “technical details” remained to be settled as part of the upcoming agreement, according to Israel’s Ynet news website.

IDF naval forces stopping Gaza-bound Flotilla aid ships from Turkey in 2010. (photo credit: Moti Milrod/Pool/Flash90)
IDF naval forces stopping Gaza-bound flotilla aid ships from Turkey in 2010. (photo credit: Moti Milrod/Pool/Flash90)

There was no confirmation of the report from Israel. Israel maintains a security blockade of Gaza to prevent Hamas, which avowedly seeks to destroy the Jewish state, from importing weaponry for use against Israel.

Earlier this week, Erdogan’s spokesman said the normalization of ties between Israel and Turkey hinges on reaching an agreement over humanitarian aid to Gaza.

Ibrahim Kalin said Turkey insists on the “re-establishment of conditions for humanitarian aid to Gaza” and supports an independent state of Palestine “whose capital is East Jerusalem.”

The accord would come almost six years after a deadly 2010 raid on a Gaza-bound Turkish ship attempting to breach the blockade, in which 10 Turkish citizens were killed during a melee aboard the vessel. The incident led to a nosedive in bilateral relations that were already tense over Israel’s military policy in Gaza. Turkey demanded an immediate apology for the 2010 raid, compensation for the victims’ families and the lifting of the blockade on Gaza before normal relations could resume.

Israel refused and only issued an official apology some three years later. Talks on compensation have reached advanced stages, according to reports, but one of the main hurdles has been the lifting of the Israeli blockade.

Talks have also reportedly gotten hung up over Israeli demands for a commitment from Turkey to end tacit support for Hamas.

After several years of chilly ties and acrimonious accusations from both sides, officials met in December in secret talks to seek a rapprochement, with another round of high-level talks taking place in February in Geneva.

A bombing last month in Istanbul that killed three Israelis also led to cooperation between the countries and high-level contacts between leaders in Ankara and Jerusalem for the first time in years.

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