Turkey: Accord With Israel to Be Reached Very Soon

Not clear yet whether sides were successful in reconciling Israeli demand that Ankara put a halt to Hamas' headquarters operations in the country and the Turkish demand to ease the situation in the Gaza Strip.

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Benjamin Netanyahu and Recep Tayyip Erdogan on poster in Turkey after flottila incident
Benjamin Netanyahu and Recep Tayyip Erdogan on poster in Turkey after flottila incident.Credit: AFP
ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

Turkey's Foreign Ministry announced that progress was made in a round of talks with Israeli negotiators on Thursday in London, aimed at reaching a deal for diplomatic reconciliation. According to the announcement, the negotiating teams agreed that an accord would be reached in another round of talks in the very near future.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's special envoy, Joseph Ciechanover, and National Security Council acting chairman Jacob Nagel made up the Israeli negotiating team in London. The Turkish team was led by Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioglu.

A senior Israeli source said that the two sides met for several hours and wrapped up discussions near midnight.

It was not initially clear if the sides were successful in reconciling two of the main issues that remain to be resolved as part of the talks. These are Israel's demand that Turkey put a halt to the operations of the Hamas military headquarters in Istanbul and Turkey's demand that Israel take certain steps to ease the situation in the Gaza Strip.

In a speech last week to the Brookings Institution in Washington, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he was interested in having Israel "remove the embargo" on Gaza and allow Turkey to bring a power generator ship to the Gaza coast to supply electricity to the territory.

A senior Israeli official noted that when it comes to Gaza, Turkey will not be granted a special status, and Israel is willing to allow it to operate in the Strip in accordance with the same terms that apply to any country wishing to transfer aid. 

Another issue still under discussion is the order of the steps that will be taken after a deal is signed. The senior Israeli official noted that only after all the standing cases against Israeli soldiers and officers in Turkey are closed will Israel transfer $20 million to a humanitarian fund, to be used as compensation for the families of Turkish citizens killed in the Mavi Marmara incident.

In recent weeks, Erdogan has been conveying a series of messages to Jerusalem both publicly and through diplomatic channels regarding his desire to come to a reconciliation agreement. Last week, the Turkish president met in Washington with the leaders of major American Jewish organizations, telling them that he hoped to come to an agreement with Israel as soon as possible.

In another development, following last month's terrorist attack in Istanbul in which three Israelis were among the dead, Erdogan sent a condolence letter to Israeli President Reuven Rivlin. Several days later, the two presidents spoke by phone at Rivlin's initiative. The call, which lasted about six minutes, dealt exclusively with the terrorist attack in Istanbul. The two leaders did not discuss the negotiations over the reconciliation agreement. 

This was the first conversation held between the Turkish president and a senior Israeli official since March 2013, when Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke with Erdogan, who was prime minister of Turkey at the time. Netanyahu apologized over the deaths of Turkish citizens in the Mavi Marmara confrontation.

On the day of Rivlin's telephone conversation with Erdogan, Netanyahu told a news conference that he convened that he hopes that the next meeting between the Turkish and Israeli negotiating teams "will produce positive results" and make the rehabilitation of relations between the countries possible. 

"We have always wanted correct relations with Turkey and it wasn't us who changed the direction of the relations," Netanyahu said. "If possible, we would like to normalize the ties."

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