Turkey PM Binali Yildirim: Gaza siege largely lifted

Israel and Turkey announce details of reconciliation to end bitter six-year rift over Israeli raid on Gaza aid flotilla.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim has said that the Israeli embargo on Gaza has been “largely lifted” as part of the reconciliation deal between Israel and Turkey.

The Middle East powers announced details of the deal after talks in Rome on Monday aimed at ending their bitter six-year rift over a deadly Israeli army raid on a Turkish flotilla to Gaza in 2010.

The deal will see Israel provide economic compensation worth $20m to the families of the 10 Turkish citizens killed by Israeli forces who raided the six-ship flotilla heading to break the Israeli siege on Gaza and provide humanitarian aid to the almost two million Palestinians living there.

In addition to the compensation, the agreement will allow Turkey to deliver humanitarian aid, build a 200-bed hospital, a housing project and a desalination plant in Gaza, under the condition that materials go through the Israeli port of Ashdod first.

“To this end, our first ship loaded with over 10,000 tonnes of humanitarian aid will leave for Israel’s Ashdod port on Friday,” Yildirim said.

During a news conference in Ankara, Yildirim said that with these concessions the siege on Gaza was “largely lifted”. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, however, denied that the siege would be removed, at a parallel news conference in Rome.  

OPINION: What the Israeli-Turkish reconciliation says about Gaza

Mustafa Barghouti, secretary-general of the Palestinian National Initiative, told Al Jazeera there was little reason for Palestinians to celebrate the deal. 

“We are relieved to be getting a desalination plant in Gaza, which is suffering with 96 percent of the water being either polluted or salinated, and that there will be an electricity station, but we are disappointed that what we were promised did not happen – which is the lifting of the siege on Gaza.”

Materials entering the territory will only be allowed in through Israeli channels, and the Israeli navy will continue to blockade Gaza’s sea. 

Al Jazeera’s Jamal Elshayyal, reporting from Ankara, said that this means the siege is still in place as “anything that is reaching Gaza still requires Israel’s approval”.

Israel and Turkey reach deal to restore relations

After the deal is signed on Tuesday, the approval process will start in both countries, with the Turkish prime minister saying Ankara would appoint an ambassador to Tel Aviv within weeks.

As part of the agreement, Netanyahu said the two countries will be coordinating a gas deal in which Israeli gas will be channelled to Europe through Turkey. His Turkish counterpart said it was too early to speak of such a deal. 

Turkish officials also said no references were made to Hamas in the agreement, while Netanyahu announced in Rome that the parties had agreed “all of the terrorism against Israel from Turkish soil will stop”.

Both sides have been seeking reconciliation in recent months, with Israel in search of a potential customer for its offshore gas exports and Turkey wanting to restore its regional clout.

“If it is true that the deal relates to a future gas deal, it will be very dangerous and disappointing,” said Barghouti. 

“We are very worried about any country that cooperates with Israel in exporting gas. It’s a profitable measure and we view it as one that rewards the occupier. It is disappointing, especially from a country that says it supports Palestine.”

The Hamas political movement, which controls the Gaza Strip, has said it hopes that the agreement would have a wider impact across the Palestinian territories.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies