Senior Israeli Officials: Deal With Turkey Possible Within Days

Turkish media says agreement waiting for finalization of 'minor issues' before submitted to Erdogan and Netanyahu.

ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid
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ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

“Israel and Turkey are close to signing a reconciliation agreement, and it’s possible that ties between the two nations will improve in the next few days,” senior Israeli officials involved in negotiations told Haaretz late on Tuesday.

Haaretz revealed on Tuesday that Israel offered to pay $20 million in reparations to the families of Turkish civilians who were killed or injured in the 2010 Israel Defense Forces raid on the Mavi Marmara, the lead ship of a flotilla that tried to break Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip.

A senior Turkish delegation that arrived in Israel on Sunday has met with Israeli negotiators. Israel Channel 10 television news reported on the delegation’s arrival on Tuesday.

It remains unclear if the latest round of talks in the capital will result in an agreement that could be brought to the governments in Jerusalem and Ankara for approval. On a number of occasions a breakthrough seemed imminent, but each time ended in failure.

The popular Turkish newspaper Hurriyet Daily News reported on Monday morning that according to senior officials in Ankara an agreement was close. “There are positive developments with regard to fixing the compensation issue,” the paper cited a Turkish diplomatic source as saying. “An agreement is almost ready and is waiting for the finalization of some minor issues before being submitted to the two countries’ leadership.”

The paper said diplomatic sources had noted that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is at a critical political juncture, with an election scheduled for March 30. They said he might use the agreement with Israel in order to tout it “as another foreign policy victory.”

Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arınc said on Monday, during a visit to the city of Izmir, that reconciliation talks with Israel have moved forward, and that Turkey is interested in normalizing relations with Israel. He said, however, that the two sides have yet to reach an agreement. Arinc stressed that the amount of reparations Turkey will seek will be based on international law and precedent.

According to Arinc, as soon as an agreement is reached over the amount of compensation, Israel and Turkey will begin thawing their relations, and new ambassadors will be appointed. He added that after the agreement with Israel is signed, it will be passed on to the Turkish parliament for ratification.

Parliamentary ratification will void Turkey’s lawsuits against Israeli soldiers and army officers who were involved in the raid and will prohibit such lawsuits from being filed in Turkish courts in the future.

On Monday, Haaretz revealed that during the previous round of talks in Istanbul in early December, the Turkish side softened their demands, and asked for a smaller amount of reparations. Western diplomats told Haaretz at the time that the Turkish demand stood at $30 million, while Israel was willing to pay no more than $15 million.

In recent weeks, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided to up the Israeli offer to $20 million. The same Western diplomat stated that the Israeli negotiating team was given another two to three million dollars of leeway, should adding the additional funds be necessary for an agreement.

Reparations will not be paid directly to the families but rather will be given to a humanitarian fund, which will transfer the funds to the families based on certain criteria.

Israel hopes that normalizing relations with Turkey is not just symbolic restoration of ambassadors to Tel Aviv and Ankara, rather, Israel is interested in full renewal of dialogue between the two states, as well as ministry meetings, and mutual visits. Israel also expects that Turkey commit to refrain from acting against Israel in international forums, as well as refrain from disparaging Israel in the media.

People, holding Turkish and Palestinian flags, cheering as the Mavi Marmara ship returns in Istanbul, Turkey, Sunday, Dec. 26, 2010.Credit: AP

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