A reconciliation deal between Turkey and Israel over the 2010 Mavi Marmara raid could be signed as early as next month, Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc told the Turkish daily Hurriyet on Tuesday.
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Arınc said the Turkish government would re-evaluate the final text of the reconciliation agreement on the monetary amount delievered by Israel last month and turn it into an official agreement to be approved by the two countries following Turkey's March 30 local elections.
Israel offered Turkey $20 million in compensation for the families of the nine Turkish nationals killed and to those wounded during the 2010 Israel Defense Forces raid on the Mavi Marmara.
Last March, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu formally apologized to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for the incident. Erdogan accepted the apology during his conversation with Netanyahu, and his office later released a statement saying Turkey valued its "friendship" with Israel.
When the agreement is signed, relations between Israel and Turkey could be normalized at a diplomatic level, with the two countries re-assigning ambassadors.
Arınc said the agreement needed to be approved by the Turkish Parliament after it is signed, and added that the process to normalize relations could begin immediately after the two countries agree to a deal.
The reconciliation talks between Turkey and Israel, which had petered out for many months, were revived in early December when the Turks invited the Israeli negotiating team – national security adviser Yossi Cohen; Netanyahu’s special envoy Joseph Ciechanover; and Foreign Ministry director general Nissim Ben Sheetrit – to return to Istanbul.
During that round of talks, the Turks softened their position and lowered their compensation demands. Western diplomats told Haaretz that the Turks had demanded $30 million - double the $15 million Israel was originally prepared to pay.
The money will not be paid directly to the wounded or the families of the dead, rather deposited in a humanitarian fund and distributed to the victims in accordance with defined criteria.
The deterioration in Israeli-Turkish relations, which began in early 2009 following Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, reached rock-bottom in May 2010, after the Marmara raid. The crisis led to a downgrading of official relations and the eventual expulsion of the Israeli ambassador from Ankara in September 2011.