ROME - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the beginning of his meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Rome that the reconciliation deal between Israel and Turkey will have "immense implications for the Israeli economy."
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Netanyahu also thanked U.S. Vice President Biden for his assistance in the negotiations to reach the agreement, but did not mention U.S. President Barak Obama, during whose March 2013 visit to Israel Netanyahu and Erdogan spoke on the phone, during which time the prime minister apologized for the death of Turkish citizens in the takeover of the Gaza flotilla.
Netanyahu added that the reconciliation agreement is an "important step" in normalizing ties between Israel and Turkey. Kerry for his part said that the U.S. welcomes the agreement, saying it is "a positive step" and expressing hope that additional ones will follow.
Earlier, Netanyahu briefed Biden on the reconciliation agreement. Biden, who had in recent months prodded the sides to reach a deal, praised the agreement and told Netanyahu it holds "significant positive security and economic benefits for both countries and the wider Eastern Mediterranean region," a statement from the White House said.
Biden had intensified his involvement in the talks with Turkey since January when he visited Ankara and met with Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Biden had met with Netanyahu beforehand at the World Economic Forum in Davos. The U.S. leader saw reconciliation efforts as facilitating the development of natural gas reserves in the Middle East.
Turkey was one of the main issues Biden discussed with Netanyahu during a March visit to Israel. At that time he told Netanyahu that Erdogan is interested in normalizing ties with Israel as soon as possible. At the meeting, Biden offered to help relay messages to Erdogan to help the sides overcome remaining differences.
Meanwhile, Erdogan telephoned Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas overnight Sunday to update him about the agreement.
Senior Turkish officials said Erdogan told Abbas the agreement would improve humanitarian conditions in the Gaza Strip. The officials said that Abbas as well as senior Hamas officials welcomed the deal.
The officials said that "the agreement represents a diplomatic victory for Turkey, which assumed a principled and determined stance" since the deadly Gaza flotilla incident of May 2010.
They said that in addition to aid Turkey has given Gaza, "The Turkish-Israeli agreement will make it possible for Turkey to launch major projects in the West Bank including the Jenin industrial zone."
The officials added that "there are absolutely no references to Hamas in the agreement. Turkey will continue supporting the Palestinian state and the people of Palestine."