Obama to Erdogan: Conclude Normalization Agreement With Israel

Conversation comes nearly three weeks after Israeli and Turkish negotiators reach draft agreement for an end to hostilities- which Netanyahu is now refusing to approve.

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

U.S. President Barack Obama urged Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to complete the reconciliation negotiations with Israel during a phone call on Wednesday.

The conversation, which also touched on Syria and various other topics, comes almost three weeks after Israeli and Turkish negotiating teams hammered out a draft agreement for mending ties between the nations - which Netanyahu is now refusing to approve.

Erdogan, for his part, has in recent days revived his demand that Israel lift its siege on the Gaza Strip as a condition for normalization.

"Haaretz" revealed that as part of the draft agreement, Israel would pay compensation of some $20-23 million to the families of the Turkish citizens killed and injured by IDF forces during the Gaza Flotilla incident. The agreement also includes Turkish agreement to pass a law that would lead to cancellation of lawsuits filed against IDF soldiers and officers who had participated in the raid, and an outline of the diplomatic normalization.

Israeli officials say that the negotiating team had recommended that Netanyahu sign the agreement, since it met most of Israel’s demands. The feeling was that the deal would be signed in a matter of days. But Netanyahu's refrain from approving it has lead Israeli officials to fear that the premier may have changed his mind. The concern is that if an agreement isn’t signed soon, one party or the other will do something that will delay reconciliation, as has already happened several times.

Obama has played a central role in the process of Israeli-Turkish reconciliation. Since the advent of the diplomatic rupture in May 2010, the U.S. has been actively attempting to hasten a détente, pressuring both Netanyahu and Erdogan to bring about an end to hostilities. The effort was boosted when Obama visited Israel in March 2013, when he brokered a conversation between the two leaders, during which Netanyahu apologized to the Turkish people for the events surrounding the Mavi Marmara.

Erdogan addresses members of parliament from his ruling AK Party (AKP) during a meeting at the Turkish parliament in Ankara. February 18, 2014. Credit: Reuters

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