TEL AVIV – Israel and Turkey’s reconciliation is more than 95% complete and the countries’ severed ties could be reestablished within “a matter of days,” according to a senior Israeli official.
Six years after the Turkish-backed, Hamas-supporting flotilla to Gaza caused a deep diplomatic rift, Ankara and Jerusalem are on the verge of normalizing relations.
“Almost everything has been finalized. We’ve concluded over 95% of the negotiations, there are only few details remaining. It could be a matter of days,” the Israeli official said, according to the Hebrew-language Ynet website.
“There is no reason this won’t happen,” he added.
Turkey’s new Prime Minister, Binali Yildirim, said that Turkey can no longer have “permanent enmity” with surrounding countries.
“I don’t think there’s a lot of time left till we reach a reconciliation agreement with Israel,” Yildirim said at a press conference over the weekend.
Israel’s Channel 1 reported Sunday that Israeli and Turkish negotiators are scheduled to meet on June 26 to iron out the remaining disputes. According to the report, those issues include Israel’s demand that Turkey shut down Hamas’ military headquarters in Istanbul. A compromise has been reached on the matter, the official said.
He added that among the positive steps taken by Ankara recently was the lifting of its NATO veto on cooperation with Israel. In addition, a number of senior Turkish foreign ministry officials attended the Israeli Independence Day celebration at the Ankara embassy in May for the first time.
The erstwhile allies have been in conflict since Israeli commandos boarded a Turkish ship that breached the Gaza blockade while purporting to bring humanitarian aid to the Strip. Ten Turkish citizens were killed in the raid after many of them attacked the Israeli troops. In return for maintaining ties with the country, Turkey demanded an apology, compensation for the victims’ families, and the lifting of the Gaza blockade.
Israel did not comply and only issued an apology three years later – a move which many thought would lead to a rapprochement. However, the opportunity was lost when Hamas started firing rockets into Israel, sparking Operation Protective Edge.
Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed his support for reconciliation between Israel and Turkey.
“We view it in a positive manner,” Putin said during Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Moscow last week. “We think that any rapprochement between countries and peoples can have a positive influence on the entire international situation. The fewer problems there are between countries the better,” he said. In reference to Israeli-Turkish reconciliation efforts, he said: “We welcome this process.”