Obama and Erdogan (archive)
Obama and Erdogan (archive)Reuters

U.S. President Barack Obama and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday discussed the normalization of ties between Turkey and Israel.

“The President and Prime Minister spoke about the importance of quickly concluding the normalization agreement with Israel,” said a White House readout of the telephone conversation between the two leaders. 

The statement further noted that Obama and Erdogan “agreed on the importance of close cooperation between our two countries to address the growing terrorist presence in Syria and on the shared interest in continuing efforts to advance a political solution to the Syria conflict.”

The conversation comes after it was reported last week that Israel and Turkey were close to normalizing their ties, only to have Erdogan reject normalization and make more demands of Israel.

Turkey’s foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, said last Sunday that his country and Israel are the closest they have been to a normalization of bilateral relations since the Mavi Marmara incident in 2010.

The Mavi Marmara, which claimed to international media to be providing "humanitarian aid for the people of Gaza," was the largest ship in the flotilla aimed at breaking Israel's Gaza blockade on May 31, 2010.

The ship 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 activists 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 demands to apologize for raiding the Marmara, Turkey withdrew its ambassador from Israel and expelled the Israeli ambassador in Ankara.

It was under pressure from Obama that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu apologized last March to Erdogan for the deaths of the activists on the Marmara.

Israel was reportedly willing to pay $20 million to the families of nine Turks killed on the Mavi Marmara in order to end the long-standing conflict, but Erdogan last week suddenly demanded that Israel present a “written protocol” in which it promises to lift the “siege” on Gaza.

That demand was rejected by Netanyahu, as senior officials from his office declared that lifting the blockade, which was deemed legal by the UN in 2010, and providing a written statement to that effect are "not on the agenda."