Israel and Turkey reach deal to restore relations

Deal comes six years after an Israeli raid killed Turkish activists on a flotilla seeking to deliver aid to Gaza.

Israel and Turkey have reached an agreement to normalise ties, according to Israeli and Turkish media.

The highly anticipated agreement was reported on Sunday, six years after an Israeli raid that killed 10 Turkish activists as an aid flotilla sought to break the blockade on the Gaza Strip.

Both sides have been pushing to complete the deal in recent months, with Israel in search of a potential customer for its offshore gas exports and NATO member Turkey wanting to restore its regional clout, analysts say.

The United States has also pushed for the two countries to resolve the dispute.

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Feridun Sinirlioglu, Turkish undersecretary to the foreign ministry, and Joseph Ciechanover, who represented Israel at the UN Gaza Flotilla  investigation, met in Rome on Sunday to discuss the reconciliation deal, Turkish daily Hurriyet said.

“The deal will see Israel apologise for the 2010 attack on an aid flotilla travelling to Gaza, in which 10 Turkish nationals were killed by Israeli commandoes, compensations for the victims’ families and a minor easing of Israel’s blockade of the Palestinian territory,” Al Jazeera’s Imtiaz Tyab reported from West Jerusalem.

Monday announcement

An Israeli official speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity said that the agreement had been finalised but details would not be officially announced until Monday.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim is also expected to hold a press conference about the Israel reconciliation deal in Ankara on Monday, Hurriyet reported, citing the prime minister’s office as the source.

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Two of Turkey’s key conditions for normalisation – an apology and compensation – were largely met earlier, leaving its third demand, that Israel lift its blockade on the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, the main obstacle left.

Reports in recent days described a compromise on the issue.

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Under the reported terms of the deal, Israel will allow the completion of a much-needed hospital in Gaza, as well as the construction of a new power station and a desalination plant for drinking water.

Turkey’s aid to Gaza would also be channelled through the Israeli port of Ashdod rather than sending it directly to the Palestinian enclave, the reports said.

Turkey has long insisted that closing the file on the flotilla raid should include an end to Israeli restrictions on trade with Gaza.

In this context Turkey has demanded, and Israel has rejected, “unrestricted access” to Gaza for Turkish assistance and trade.

Israel has also committed to depositing some $20m in a fund for compensation for the Turkish victims’ families, the Israeli official told AFP, ending all claims against Israeli soldiers.

On the other hand, Turkey has committed to keeping Hamas from carrying out activities against Israel from its country, Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported.

Hamas would continue to be able to operate from Turkey for diplomatic purposes, the paper said.

Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, has said it was not involved in Turkey’s decision to normalise ties with Israel, but its officials hope the deal will have a wider impact across the Palestinian territories.

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Netanyahu has come under pressure within Israel not to agree to the deal if it does not include provisions for Hamas to hand over four missing Israelis, including the remains of two soldiers presumed dead and two civilians believed held alive by Hamas in Gaza.

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The Israeli official told AFP that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed to instruct “all relevant Turkish agencies to help resolve the issue of Israel’s missing citizens”.

Previously tight relations between Israel and Turkey were significantly downgraded after Israeli commandos staged a botched pre-dawn raid on the six-ship flotilla in May 2010.

Nine activists aboard the Turkish-owned Mavi Marmara ferry were killed, with a 10th person later dying of his wounds.

Israel imposed its blockade on Gaza in June 2006 after Palestinian fighters there kidnapped an Israeli soldier. The restrictions were tightened a year later when Hamas took control of the enclave.

There have been three wars between Israel and Palestinian armed groups in Gaza since 2008, including a devastating 50-day conflict in the summer of 2014.

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Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies