Turkish negotiator with Israel reassigned

June 3, 2016  

Feridun Sinirlioglu, Turkey’s deputy foreign minister who was in charge of reconciliation talks between Turkey and Israel in recent years, has been removed from office, Channel 2 News reported Friday.

According to the report, Sinirlioglu will be appointed Turkey’s Ambassador to the United Nations. He has in the past served as Turkish Ambassador to Israel.

It remains unclear what implications, if any, his reassignment will have on the ongoing talks between Israel and Turkey in an attempt to renew ties that were cut after the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident.

Channel 2 News’ international news editor Arad Nir speculated that the move might be an attempt by Ankara to remove any remaining officials from the government of former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who recently stepped down following a row with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Nir noted that that the normalization agreement formulated by the Israeli negotiating team and the Turkish negotiating team headed by Sinirlioglu was presented to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who is expected to approve it.

The 2010 Marmara incident which led to the cutting of ties involved a Turkish flotilla trying to breach the naval blockade on Gaza. The main ship, later found not to be carrying humanitarian goods despite its claims, refused orders to turn around and forced IDF soldiers to board it where they were attacked and wounded by Islamists armed with knives and metal bars. The soldiers were forced to open fire to defend themselves, killing ten.

Under pressure from President Barack Obama, Netanyahu apologized to Turkey over the incident, and last December Israel reportedly agreed to pay $20 million in compensation to the families of the Islamists.

Talks have stalled, however, over Gaza – and after Turkey reportedly demanded Israel lift its import and export restrictions on the Hamas terror stronghold.

On Monday, Netanyahu told a delegation of visiting U.S. congressmen that an agreement on reconciliation with Turkey is very close.

Sources said Netanyahu was very optimistic about relations with Turkey, repeating his statements on the matter three times during the meeting.

And on Thursday, Housing Minister Yoav Gallant (Kulanu) said that “Israel and Turkey are nearing an agreement.”

“This agreement is essential to the national security of Israel, and has far-reaching economic significance. Israel has many enemies, we do not need more enemies. Turkey is one of the major Muslim countries in the region alongside Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Iran,” he added.

(Arutz Sheva’s North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)

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