Israeli, Turkish Negotiating Teams to Hold Decisive Meeting Next Week

A senior Israeli official said that the gaps that remain between Israel and Turkey only concern Israel's demand to shut down Hamas' Istanbul-based military headquarters.

AP

Israel and Turkey's negotiating teams are set to meet at a European capital on June 26 for a decisive round of talks on the reconciliation agreement between the two countries.

A senior Israeli official estimated that it would be the last negotiations meeting, during which the remaining disputes between the sides will be resolved – six years and a month since the Turkish flotilla to Gaza that led to a serious crisis between the two countries.

The meeting was first reported on Channel 1 on Sunday evening. Turkey's new prime minister, Binali Yildirim, said at a press briefing over the weekend that Turkey was interested in reaching a rapprochement with Israel and other neighboring countries with which relations have deteriorated in recent years. "I don’t think there's a lot of time left till we reach a reconciliation agreement with Israel," he said.

The crucial meeting between the negotiating teams was already meant to take place in mid-May, but was repeatedly postponed against the backdrop of the resignation of Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and the appointment of a new premier.

A senior Israeli official said that the gaps that remained between Israel and Turkey to date only concerned a compromise over Israel's demand to shut down Hamas' Istanbul-based military headquarters. A formula enabling to overcome this dispute has been reached in recent weeks.

The senior official added that in recent weeks Turkey has made positive signals at Israel, first and foremost by lifting its veto on cooperation between Israel and NATO. Also, and for the first time in five years, Turkey sent senior officials from the Foreign Ministry to attend the annual Independence Day reception at the Israeli embassy.

Israel and Turkey, formerly allies, have been at loggerheads since Israeli commandos stormed a Turkish ship, the Mavi Marmara, which in 2010 was part of a flotilla seeking to break the Israeli naval blockade of the Gaza Strip. Ten Turks on board the ship were killed in the clash. Negotiations on reconciliation are ongoing, and recently Netanyahu said that an agreement was near.

During Netanyahu's visit to Moscow last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he supports the reconciliation between Israel and Turkey. His remarks were a substantial push in the negotiations.

"We view it in a positive manner," Putin said. "We think that any rapprochement between countries and peoples can have a positive influence on the entire international situation. The fewer problems there are between countries the better," he said. In reference to Israeli-Turkish reconciliation efforts, he said: "We welcome this process." 

Putin's remarks at the news conference reflected a change in direction on the part of Russia, which up to now in private diplomatic discussions with Israeli representatives had expressed reservations regarding the reconciliation efforts. This was the first time that Putin or any other senior Russian official has expressed public support for the process.