Israeli and Turkish teams to meet in Switzerland

Diplomats say Israeli and Turkish negotiating teams will meet on Wednesday for talks on reconciliation agreement.

Elad Benari ,

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Israeli and Turkish negotiating teams will meet in Switzerland on Wednesday for another round of talks in an attempt to finalize a reconciliation agreement, Western diplomats close to the talks told Haaretz on Tuesday night.

Participating in the talks on the Israeli side will be Joseph Ciechanover, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s representative, and acting National Security Adviser Jacob Nagel.

Turkey will be represented in this round by Under Secretary of State Feridun Sinirlioglu, according to Haaretz.

The prime minister’s bureau declined to comment for this report.

A senior Israeli official said that the agreement has almost been finalized, but that two issues were still open. The first is the Turkish demand to receive free access to Gaza including directly by sea for Turkish vessels, which Israel is not prepared grant, both in order to maintain the naval blockade of Gaza as well as because of Egypt’s opposition to Turkish involvement in the Strip.

The second issue involves Hamas’ activity in Turkey. Israel claims that although senior Hamas official Salah Aruri, who planned attacks in Judea and Samaria from Turkey, has been expelled from there, a Hamas command headquarters is still active in Istanbul, raising money for the organization and planning terror attacks.

Israel is demanding that Turkey shut down the Hamas offices and prohibit Hamas from conducting military activities in Turkey.

Earlier on Tuesday, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met in Ankara with Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and a close associate of Netanyahu.

Netanyahu later said that both Israel and Turkey will have to make compromises in the course of their rapprochement. 

"We aspire to normalization with all our neighbors, but it's always a two-way street," he said, according to Haaretz.

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."

Haaretz noted that the American administration keeps pressing Israel and Turkey to reconcile. About two weeks ago, Vice President Joe Biden called Netanyahu, and the two discussed the reconciliation. A senior Israeli official said that Biden updated Netanyahu on the results of his talks with senior Turkish cabinet members during his visit to the country. These talks also discussed the country's relationship with Israel.

It was also at the urging of the United States in 2013 that Netanyahu apologized to Erdogan over the Mavi Marmara incident which led to the breakdown in relations between Israel and Turkey.