Turkey and Israel held a fresh round of talks Thursday in an effort to normalize ties after relations were partially frozen five years ago, said Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.
NATO member Turkey was a key regional ally of Israel until the two countries fell out over Israel’s policy on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip and the deaths of Turkish nationals in an IDF raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla of ships in 2010.
After several years of acrimonious accusations, two sides met in December in secret talks to seek a rapprochement, with another round of high-level talks taking place in February in Geneva.
“Meetings with Israel have been taking place for a while and they are continuing today,” Davutoglu said in Ankara.
“If our demands are received favorably, then the next steps will be clear and the necessary announcements will be made to the public.”
An Israeli official confirmed the meeting was taking place, but its location was not made public. Previous meetings are believed to have been conducted in Geneva.
In February, Turkey said the two former allies were “close to concluding a deal.”
But the two sides have yet to agree on all of Turkey’s conditions, with the main hurdle appearing to be the lifting of Israel’s blockade on Gaza.
Turkey already got an apology for the flotilla incident, and talks have advanced on the subject of compensation for the victims.
Analysts have suggested that Turkey’s desire for a rapprochement has been accelerated by the drastic worsening in ties with Moscow since the shooting down of a Russian warplane wrecked several joint projects.
Ankara relies on Russia for more than half its natural gas imports and Turkey now has its eyes on Israeli gas reserves.
Batu Aksoy, the CEO of Turkish energy firm Turcas Petrol, told local media that at least 15 energy companies wanted to be part of a planned consortium to carry Israel gas to Europe, and that the first Israeli gas may reach Turkey in the next five years.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has also raised hackles in Israel with his sometimes inflammatory rhetoric toward the Jewish state.
But in a highly symbolic encounter, Erdogan last week met representatives of Jewish organizations in the US to discuss the fight against terrorism and racism.
Another sign of a thaw came when President Reuven Rivlin phoned Erdogan to thank him for his compassion after a suicide bombing in Istanbul last month left three Israelis dead.