Turkish official: Deal with Israel 'close'

Turkish official says his country is close to an agreement to normalize ties with Israel, cites positive progress on Ankara's key demands.

Elad Benari, Canada,

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Turkey and Israel are “close” to an agreement on a deal to normalize ties after positive progress was made on Ankara's key demands in closed-door negotiations, a Turkish official said on Friday, according to AFP.

On Thursday, it was reported in Israel that Israel and Turkey, in secret talks in Switzerland, had reached "understandings" to normalize ties that were downgraded following the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident.

A senior Turkish government official, who asked not to be named, told reporters on Friday that progress had been made on Turkey's key demands of lifting the blockade on the Gaza Strip and compensation over the 2010 raid.

"We are close to a final framework" for a deal on the normalization of ties, said the official, according to AFP. "There is tangible, positive progress."

The official emphasized that no final agreement had yet been signed but said Ankara hoped the two sides would come to a final accord soon.

"We hope it will not last long" before there is an agreement, said the official.

On Thursday night, a Turkish government official confirmed that Israeli and Turkish officials had held talks in Switzerland but said a deal was not yet reached.

The official who provided Friday’s update did not confirm Israeli media reports that Turkey will prevent senior Hamas operative Salah Aruri from entering its territory and acting from there.

"We did not discuss specific names," said the official. "We'll talk if and when there is a specific request."

Israel has in the past accused Turkey of hosting Aruri, who it says has planned attacks against Israeli forces while in Turkey.

Turkish officials have never confirmed his presence in Turkey although Israeli media reports have suggested he was ordered to leave the country.

The official also said one of the reasons for the humanitarian crisis in Gaza was Israel's ongoing blockade of the territory.

"We have already laid down the lifting of blockade as a condition. There has been progress on this," said the official.

Once normalization is agreed, individual issues could be discussed such as Turkey importing gas from Israel, added the official.

Ties between Israel and Turkey broke down after the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident, when elite IDF soldiers were forced to board the Turkish Mavi Marmara ship, which ignored repeated warnings to stop its attempt to breach the maritime blockade on Gaza - a blockade that is legal under international law, and is meant to stop the influx of weapons to terrorist groups.

The soldiers were brutally attacked by IHH Islamist extremists on board wielding knives and metal bars, and had no choice but to open fire, killing ten of the IHH members on board. After an investigation, Israeli authorities discovered the vessel to be carrying no humanitarian aid, despite the flotilla's claims that it was on a "humanitarian" mission.

Earlier on Friday, MK Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beytenu) blasted the normalization of ties between Israel and Turkey, saying that the covert talks in Switzerland constitute "political damage already done."

"Opportunism is no substitute for a balanced and smart policy," Liberman fired, adding, “Erdogan is the leader of an Islamist radical regime."

"Turkey trades with ISIS (Islamic State), invaded Iraq against all international laws and now is in conflict with Russia," he continued. "It will also affect relations with Egypt, and I have difficulty seeing Erdogan giving up his demands regarding (lifting the naval blockade on) Gaza and all Turkish investments in Gaza at Egypt's expense."

(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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