Steinitz to meet Turkish counterpart in Istanbul

Israel's Energy Minister expected to meet his Turkish counterpart on Thursday.

Elad Benari ,

Yuval Steinitz
Yuval Steinitz
Yonatan Sindel/Flash 90

Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz is expected to meet his Turkish counterpart, Berat Albayrak, in Istanbul on Thursday, Haaretz reported on Saturday.

The meeting would be the first official public meeting between ministers from the two countries since the crisis over the Gaza-bound flotilla broke out in May 2010.

Steinitz will travel to Istanbul on Thursday to take part in an international energy conference there, according to Haaretz. The two ministers' offices have been in touch over the past few weeks to coordinate the meeting. The Israeli Foreign Ministry and the embassy in Ankara helped facilitate the contacts.

Israel and Turkey signed a reconciliation agreement this past June, six years after their relations deteriorated after the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident.

In that incident, IDF soldiers boarded the Marmara after the Islamists on board, who claimed they were carrying humanitarian aid for Gaza, refused to reverse course and dock at the Ashdod Port.

Upon boarding the ship, the soldiers were attacked by the Islamists with clubs and knives, forcing the troops to open fire and killing 10 of the activists on board.

Under the reconciliation deal, Israel will pay Turkey $20 million in compensation for the deaths of the 10 pro-Hamas Turkish assailants.

The agreement also provides for normalization of relations, the removal of sanctions the countries have imposed on one another, an increase in the level of diplomatic relations and an exchange of ambassadors.

Reports last week in Turkish media said Israel had paid the compensation to Turkey for the Mavi Marmara incident.

In recent days, noted Haaretz, Turkish media outlets quoted President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as saying that the energy ministers of the two countries are to meet in the wake of the reconciliation agreement.

The meeting was finally confirmed a few days ago after Israel completed the transfer of the $20 million to the Turkish government.

Steinitz's office said that the meeting will deal with possible Israeli gas export to Turkey, as well as energy cooperation between the two countries.

Steinitz had discussed potential natural gas cooperation with Erdogan on the sidelines of the international nuclear conference in Washington six months ago, according to Haaretz.

The meeting between Steinitz and Albayrak is a significant step toward normalizing the ties between the two countries.

A senior Israeli official said that Turkey has recently taken another step toward implementing the reconciliation deal. According to the official, the Turkish Justice Ministry asked the country's courts two weeks ago to close all cases against Israeli officers involved in the raid on the Mavi Marmara.

The Justice Ministry made clear to the courts that the Parliament has ratified the reconciliation agreement, which stipulates that all legal proceedings against Israelis linked to the raid are to be closed.