Israeli and Turkish teams to meet one last time

Israel and Turkey's negotiating teams to meet next week for a decisive round of talks on reconciliation agreement.

Elad Benari ,

Billboards with pictures of Erdogan and Netanyahu in Ankara
Billboards with pictures of Erdogan and Netanyahu in Ankara

Israel and Turkey's negotiating teams are set to meet at a European capital on June 26 for a decisive round of talks on the reconciliation agreement between the two countries, Haaretz reported Sunday.

A senior Israeli official estimated that it would be the last negotiations meeting, during which the remaining disputes between the sides will be resolved.

The countries are trying to repair relations that were cut after the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident, which 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.

News of the latest meeting comes several days after Turkey's new Prime Minister, Binali Yildirim, said at a press briefing that Turkey was interested in reaching a rapprochement with Israel and other neighboring countries with which relations have deteriorated in recent years.

"I don’t think there's a lot of time left till we reach a reconciliation agreement with Israel," he said, according to Haaretz.

The crucial meeting between the negotiating teams was already meant to take place in mid-May, but was repeatedly postponed against the backdrop of the resignation of former Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and the appointment of a new premier.

A senior Israeli official said Sunday that the gaps that remained between Israel and Turkey to date only concerned a compromise over Israel's demand to shut down Hamas' Istanbul-based headquarters.  A formula enabling to overcome this dispute has been reached in recent weeks.

The senior official added that in recent weeks Turkey has made positive signals at Israel, first and foremost by lifting its veto on cooperation between Israel and NATO. Also, and for the first time in five years, Turkey sent senior officials from the Foreign Ministry to attend the annual Independence Day reception at the Israeli embassy.

During Netanyahu's visit to Moscow last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he supports the reconciliation between Israel and Turkey despite his country’s own recent conflicts with Turkey.