Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has appointed Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya'alon an envoy to work for Israel's reconciliation with Turkey, a senior Israeli official said yesterday.

The revelation comes days after an Israeli official told Haaretz that Jerusalem and Ankara have been holding talks to try to solve the diplomatic crisis between the two countries. The official yesterday said Ya'alon is managing the Turkish contacts along with the Israeli representative on the UN inquiry committee on last year's Gaza flotilla, Yosef Ciechanover. The official said Israel is maintaining its position of refusing to apologize to Turkey over the deadly raid, but is ready to express regret over the incident. Israel's meetings with Turkey are taking place through two channels. Ya'alon is meeting directly with Turkish Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioglu, a firm supporter of rehabilitating ties with Israel. The other talks are between Ciechanover and Turkey's representative on the UN inquiry committee, Ozdem Sanberk. The two have been passing messages between Israel and Turkey and have been making efforts to draft understandings to end the crisis. In addition, the U.S. administration has held talks with senior Turkish officials, mainly to foil the flotilla to Gaza due later this month, but also in a bid to improve relations with Israel. Last Thursday, Netanyahu called a meeting with ministers on the Gaza flotilla and relations with Turkey. A source familiar with the debate said the main bone of contention was whether Israel would apologize to Turkey or only express regret, and whether the Turkish families to be compensated for their relatives killed in the May 2010 raid would be able to file further suits.

This is Israel and Turkey's third attempt to reach understandings that would end the crisis.

The first attempt took place after the Carmel fire in December. Ciechanover and Sanberk reached partial understandings, but Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman objected to Israel's apologizing to Turkey for last year's flotilla events, and the talks were halted. Another unsuccessful attempt took place two months ago. One of the developments behind the current attempt to solve the crisis is the UN inquiry committee's report on the flotilla, due to be released in the first week of July.