Report: Israeli and Turkish officials to meet within two weeks

January 30, 2016  

Israeli and Turkish officials are expected to meet within two weeks as the countries continue talks on restoring ties, Channel 2 News reported Saturday night.

According to the report, the meeting was made possible following a conversation on Friday between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and U.S. Vice President Joe Biden.

Biden called Netanyahu after meetings with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and informed him about the talks he held with Erdogan, which included a discussion of the issue of promoting reconciliation between the Israel and Turkey.

Following the Biden-Netanyahu call, an Israeli official told Channel 2 News that the sides are expected in the coming weeks.

Recent reports indicated that Israel and Turkey, in secret talks in Switzerland, had reached “understandings” to normalize ties that were downgraded following the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident.

Turkish officials, however, downplayed the reports, and a spokesman for Erdogan ruled out any chances of a rapprochement with Israel, saying any normalization with Israel would be conditioned on the lifting of the blockade on Gaza – which Israel has imposed to restrict the flow of weapons to Hamas and other terrorist organizations there.

But Erdogan seemed recently to soften his tone, saying Turkey must accept that it needs Israel and adding that, likewise, “Israel is in need of a country like Turkey in the region.”

On Wednesday, Netanyahu addressed the reconciliation efforts with Turkey during his meeting with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.

“We are trying to normalize our relations with Turkey, I do not know if we will succeed but I think we will continue efforts and we must ensure that the interests of Israel are preserved,” he said. “Turkey and Israel had excellent relations in previous years, we did not want to see them deteriorate and it was not us who caused this deterioration in the relationship. If there is a change in policy, we will welcome it.”

The relations between Israel and Turkey broke down completely following the 2010 flotilla to Gaza, when the Turkish Mavi Marmara ship, which claimed to be providing “humanitarian aid for the people of Gaza,” defied orders to turn around and dock at the Ashdod port. After it ignored repeated warnings to change course, the IDF boarded the vessel – only to be attacked by Islamist extremists on board.

The soldiers had no choice but to open fire, resulting in the deaths of nine of the IHH members on board. After an investigation, Israeli authorities discovered the vessel to be carrying no humanitarian aid – in fact, no aid supplies at all – whatsoever. 

When Israel refused Turkey’s demand that it apologize for the incident and compensate the victims’ families, Turkey cut ties with the Jewish state.

Netanyahu later apologized to Erdogan, who was then Turkey’s Prime Minister, over the Marmara incident at the urging of the United States.

But even as the sides were supposed to enter talks on compensation for the victims of the Marmara, Erdogan has never stopped his verbal attacks and incitement against Israel. Most recently he praised the latest Palestinian terror wave against Israel as a “noble fight” by the Palestinians.

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