Turkish PM: If Israel Agrees to Solve Gaza Utilities Crisis, We’ll Sign Reconciliation Deal

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu says talks with Israel at very advanced stage; sides due to meet again in mid-May.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, speaking in Doha, Qatar, on April 28, 2016.
Mohamed Sherif, AFP

If Israel meets Turkey’s demand to resolve the electricity and water crises in the Gaza Strip, Turkey will sign a reconciliation agreement with Israel very soon, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told reporters in Qatar on Friday.

Speaking in Doha, Davutoglu said the reconciliation agreement with Israel had reached a very advanced stage, with only a few more small details to be ironed out to reach an agreement. “With God’s help it will be resolved,” he said, adding that it would benefit the Palestinians in Gaza.

During his visit to Qatar, the Turkish premier met with Hamas’ political bureau leader, Khaled Meshal. It was not clear whether the reconciliation agreement with Israel came up during their meeting, but one of the main subjects still in dispute is Israel’s demand that Hamas’ military command in Istanbul cease operations.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a press briefing during his visit to Croatia last Wednesday that Israeli and Turkish negotiating teams are to reconvene in mid-May to try and reach an accord. Erdogan said the two countries had discussed a series of humanitarian initiatives in Gaza involving electricity and water, in order to meet the Turkish demand for “a lifting of the embargo” on the Gaza Strip.

Erdogan said that during talks with Israel, Turkey had proposed sending a power-generating ship to anchor in the port of Ashdod and produce electricity to address the severe energy crisis in the Gaza Strip. Erdogan said Israel had objected to the idea and had instead proposed that the governments of Turkey and Germany cooperate to build a power plant in Gaza.

“We said that from our point of view it’s possible. We still haven’t given up the idea of sending a ship. Israel also responded positively to our proposal to deal with the water crisis in Gaza by building desalination plants and wells. Schools and hospitals are also needed. We are seeking donors, and there are those who have pledged donations,” Erdogan said.

According to a senior official in Jerusalem, no date has been set for the next round of talks with Turkey, which is considered critical, but confirmed that it would probably take place in mid-May. The senior official said the Turks had raised the idea of a power ship in the past, but that it was no longer on the agenda and that instead Israel had proposed other humanitarian projects that Turkey could implement in Gaza.

The Israeli official said that as far as Israel was concerned, Turkey’s status in Gaza was the same as any other country.

The Israeli and Turkish negotiating teams last met in London about three weeks ago. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s representative, Joseph Ciechanover, took part in the talks along with Israel’s deputy national security adviser, Jacob Nagel.

The Turkish negotiating team is headed by Feridun Sinirlioglu. The Foreign Ministry in Ankara announced after the round of talks in London that progress had been made toward closing gaps and completing the reconciliation agreement, and that the agreement would be completed during the next round of talks.

Relations between the two countries soured six years ago, after Israeli forces boarded a Turkish ship en route to Gaza in a bid to break a naval blockade. Nine Turkish activists were killed onboard the Mavi Marmara in May 2010, forcing Turkey to downgrade its diplomatic relations with Israel.