While growing regional unrest seems to be bringing Israel and Turkey — the allies-turned-adversaries — closer together, it may be leaving a major player decidedly cold.
According to a report in Haaretz on Thursday, Russia is unhappy with the emerging détente between the two Middle Eastern nations, and made its reservations known to Israeli officials when diplomats met in Moscow Thursday to discuss regional developments.
A key Turkish demand for reconciliation has been for Ankara to be allowed generous access to the Gaza Strip to deliver humanitarian aid and develop the impoverished enclave’s infrastructure. The deal may also involve new agreements by which Israel will become a key supplier of natural gas to Turkey.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told Israeli Foreign Ministry Director-General Dore Gold that his government, which has seen increased tensions with Ankara over the fighting in Syria, is unhappy with those developments: Moscow does not wish to see Turkey gain a foothold in Palestinian affairs, and doesn’t want to lose its status as Ankara’s main gas supplier.
Gold was in Russia Thursday, seeking to persuade Moscow not to go ahead with the delivery of S-300 anti-missile systems to Tehran, Army Radio reported.
Egypt is also unhappy with the prospect of increased Turkish clout in Gaza, and Haaretz reported the Russian and Egyptian positions may convince Jerusalem to back out of the deal.
Tensions between Russia and Turkey have soared over Moscow’s backing of Syrian President Bashar Assad and Russia’s intense air campaign against what it claims are “terrorist” targets in its allied Middle Eastern state.
Israel and Turkey 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.
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.
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 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.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last month signaled his readiness to mend ties with Israel, saying the two countries needed each other.