Turkish and Israeli Teams to Negotiate Reconciliation in Switzerland

Netanyahu says Israel wants to normalize ties with Turkey, 'but it’s a two-way street.' Earlier, Jewish delegation met with Erdogan and Davutoglu in Ankara.

AFP

Israeli and Turkish negotiating teams are set to meet in Switzerland on Wednesday for another round of talks in an attempt to finalize a reconciliation agreement, Western diplomats close to the talks told Haaretz.

Participating in the talks on the Israeli side are Joseph Ciechanover, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s representative, and acting National Security Adviser Jacob Nagel. Turkey is represented in this round by Under Secretary of State Feridun Sinirlioglu.

The prime minister’s bureau declined to comment for this report.

A senior Israeli official said that the agreement has almost been finalized, but that two issues were still open. The first is the Turkish demand to receive free access to the Gaza Strip including directly by sea for Turkish vessels, which Israel is not prepared grant, both in order to maintain the naval blockade of Gaza as well as because of Egypt’s opposition to Turkish involvement in the Strip.

The second issue involves Hamas’ activity in Turkey. Israel claims that although senior Hamas official Salah Aruri, who planned attacks in the West Bank from Turkey, has been expelled from there, a Hamas command headquarters is still active in Istanbul, raising money for the organization and planning terror attacks. Israel is demanding that Turkey shut down the Hamas offices and prohibit Hamas from conducting military activities in Turkey.

On Tuesday Netanyahu said that both Israel and Turkey will have to make compromises in the course of their rapprochement. 

"We aspire to normalization with all our neighbors, but it's always a two-way street," he said, during a tour of the Arava in southeastern Israel.

On Tuesday afternoon, a Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organization delegation, led by Malcolm Hoenlein, met Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in Turkey.

Hoenlein, who is considered to be one of the Jewish American leaders closest to Netanyahu, notified the Prime Minister's Bureau and the Foreign Ministry in advance of the meetings in Turkey, and was asked to relay several messages to Erdogan and Davutoglu. Netanyahu said during the tour that he would be happy to hear what the two Turkish leaders had to say to Hoenlein and his delegation.

Over five years have passed since the Israeli army raided a Turkish boat participating in the Gaza flotilla, an incident which resulted in a serious crisis in the ties between the two countries. A formula for reconciliation and for the restoration of normal ties has not yet been found.

The American administration keeps pressing Israel and Turkey to reconcile. About two weeks ago, Vice President Joe Biden called Netanyahu, and the two discussed the reconciliation. A senior Israeli official said that Biden updated Netanyahu on the results of his talks with senior Turkish cabinet members during his visit to the country a few days ago. These talks also discussed the country's relationship with Israel.

Netanyahu met Biden a few days before the phone call, on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. One of the main topics of discussion in the meeting was the reconciliation with Turkey. Biden left Davos for Turkey, where he relayed Netanyahu's stance to Ankara.