Erdogan: Turkish, Israeli Negotiating Teams to Meet in mid-May in Bid to Seal Reconciliation Deal

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Benjamin Netanyahu and Recep Tayyip Erdogan on poster in Turkey after flottila incidentCredit: AFP

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Wednesday that Israel and Turkey's negotiating teams will meet again in mid-May to try to reach a reconciliation deal.

Erdogan told a press briefing in Zagreb, Croatia that the two countries are discussing the establishment of a series of humanitarian projects in Gaza relating to electricity and water, as part of the negotiations surrounding Turkish demands toward "lifting the embargo" on Gaza.

Erdogan said that Turkey offered during negotiations to send a ship, anchored in Israel's Ashdod port, to provide electricity for Gaza to help cope with the Strip's severe energy crisis. He said Israel was reluctant, and offered the establishment of a power plant within Gaza, carried out between Turkey and Germany, as an alternative project.

"We said that could be possible," said Erdogan. "We still haven't given up on the ship. Israel is also positive toward our proposal to address Gaza's water problem through water desalination plants or wells. There is also a need for schools and hospitals. We are seeking donors. Some have promised to contribute."

A senior official in Jerusalem said that the date of the next round of Israel-Turkey talks, considered to be crucial, has not yet been determined but will presumably take place in mid-May. According to the senior official, Turkey has brought up the matter of sending a ship in the past but is no longer on the agenda. Instead, Israel has suggested other humanitarian projects Turkey can perform in Gaza. The official noted that Turkey's status in Gaza concerning Israel will not be different from any other country.

The Israeli and Turkish negotiating teams met three weeks ago in London, attended by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's envoy, Joseph Ciechanover and Israel's deputy National Security Adviser Jacob Nagel and Turkish Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioglu. The Foreign Ministry in Ankara announced after that round that progress had been made in closing the gap toward reaching a reconciliation agreement. According to the announcement, the teams agreed that the deal would be reached in the next round of talks. One of the main issues, however, is the lack of consensus on Israel's demand to stop military command from Hamas' headquarters in Istanbul.

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