Ya'alon Skeptical About Turkish Reconciliation: 'Hamas' Istanbul Command Post Must Be Closed'

Israeli defense minister calls Turkish government continued hosting of Hamas command post in Istanbul unacceptable after meeting with Swiss defense minister in Bern.

Swiss Defense Minister Guy Parmelin, right, and Israel's Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon shaking hands during an official visit in Bern, Switzerland, February 11, 2016.
AP

Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon expressed deep skepticism during a press conference he held after his meeting with the Swiss defense minister in Bern about the prospects of reaching a reconciliation deal with Turkey.

Ya'alon asserted that Turkey has to close the Hamas command post in Istanbul as a condition for normalization of relations with Israel.

Ya'alon held the press conference after the negotiation teams of Israel and Turkey met over the past two days in Zurich, Switzerland, in an attempt to make a breakthrough that would allow the two countries to sign a reconciliation agreement. A spokesperson for the ruling party in Turkey, Omar Celik, told reporters earlier Thursday that the talks went well but that there was still no agreement.

The defense minister said that Israel is not the one who initiated the deterioration in relations with Turkey and placed responsibility for the crisis on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

"Since the Gaza flotilla, we have tried to end the crisis but we have failed," said Ya'alon. "Lately, the negotiations were renewed. It is likely that this is because the crisis between Turkey and Russia or because of the problems Turkey has with gas supplies that Russia promised and that are no longer relevant. Perhaps because of this, the Turks turned to us."

Ya'alon stressed that Israel is prepared to settle its problems with Turkey, but it also has demands of its own. He did not publicly address the demand that he raised in discussions in Israel that Haaretz revealed on Wednesday, by which any reconciliation deal with Turkey would have to include returning the bodies of Israeli soldiers killed in Gaza. Rather, Ya'alon focused on Israel's main demands regarding Turkey's relations with Hamas.

Turkey is hosting in Istanbul the terror command post of Hamas abroad," he said. "We cannot accept this. The Turks support Hamas, and this needs to be discussed. I am not sure that it will be possible to reach an arrangement of relations with Turkey. Perhaps we'll succeed, but they will have to address our conditions in order to overcome existing obstacles.