Heron UAV drone
Heron UAV droneTsahi Ben-Ami/Flash 90

Turkish defense sources revealed on Thursday that Ankara is interested in a rapprochement agreement with Israel not only so as to buy natural gas from the Jewish state - but also to buy advanced military hardware.

The sources told the Turkish Today's Zaman on Thursday that the recent talk of a normalization agreement is primarily being driven by a Turkish desire for military cooperation, with Turkey keen to buy advanced UAV drones as well as reconnaissance and surveillance systems for its fighter jets.

According to the sources the desire to have ties with Israel is based on the need to buy weapons from the state, as was the case back in the 1990s. During that time, Turkey faced a Western embargo over its reported human rights abuses against the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), and it turned to Israel to buy military goods from the Jewish state, to the outrage of much of the Arab world.

Those ties disintegrated in the infamous 2010 Mavi Marmara flotilla incident, but now Turkey wants to purchase natural gas from Israel that is seeking to mine its offshore resources; Turkey is facing sanctions from Russia, its main supplier of gas, after shooting down one of Moscow's jets on the Syrian border.

But according to the sources, military cooperation is at least as important of a factor behind the rapprochement talks.

Today's Zaman's sources revealed Turkish authorities want to revive a number of defense projects that were put on hold by the Mavi Marmara incident.

Following the breakdown in ties, the Israeli Defense Ministry canceled the licenses of defense firms IAI and Elbit to sell advanced systems to the Turkish Air Force (THK), leaving on hold a $165 million deal from 2008 to modernize Turkey's F-4 fighter jet fleet with advanced reconnaissance and surveillance systems.

Turkey for its part canceled the contracts of the Turkish defense company ASELSAN with Israel.

UAVs are also a keen interest for Turkey, after it bought several advanced Heron UAVs from Israel in the mid 2000s. The sources reveal Turkey now has only one ground station for the UAVs and only can operate three Herons simultaneously, significantly limiting its intel gathering abilities.

The sources said that now when the Herons encounter a technical error, Turkey has a serious problem in that Israel will no longer fix them due to the strained ties.

Rapprochement talks - "for Gaza"

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Tuesday said that Turkey is only interested in the normalization talks so as to "benefit...Palestine and Gaza."

Davutoglu also spoke about the Mavi Marmara, when IDF soldiers were forced to board the Turkish ship that had ignored repeated warnings to stop its attempt to breach the maritime blockade on Gaza - a blockade that is legal under international law.

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.

Davutoglu on Tuesday gloated over the way US President Barack Obama pressured Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu back in 2013 into apologizing for the incident, saying, "Turkey has become the first state to ever enjoy the honor of making Israel formally apologize over such an incident."

"Ignore speculations. Our position will not change," he concluded, apparently throwing his weight behind Turkish demands to lift the naval blockade on Gaza that is meant to prevent an influx of weapons.

Senior Israeli security sources earlier on Tuesday said they doubt Turkey is serious about rapprochement, noting on the crisis in ties with Russia that apparently prompted the desire for natural gas trade with Israel.

They also noted that Ankara still is hosting Hamas terrorists, including those who were expelled in the 2011 Gilad Shalit deal that saw 1,027 terrorists go free. The terrorists being allowed to stay in Turkey include those who are involved in planning terror attacks against Israeli citizens inside the Jewish state.