Israel minister says Turkey deal near completion
JERUSALEM - Agence France-Presse
Dr. Yuval Steinitz, Minister of National Infrastructures, Energy and Water Resources of the State of Israel, arrives for a working dinner on the South Lawn of the White House March 31, 2016 in Washington, DC - AFP photoAn Israeli minister close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said June 2 that nearly all outstanding issues for a reconciliation agreement with Turkey had been finalised by both sides.
"I'd say we've successfully finished dealing with 90 percent of the topics," Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said in a radio interview.
Steinitz's remarks were the latest in a long series of iterations from both sides implying a deal was imminent to end the rift between the former allies.
The relationship between Turkey and Israel was severely strained after the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara vessel was raided by Israeli commandos in 2010, killing nine Turkish and one Turkish-American citizen on board.
Israel apologised to Turkey in 2013, in what many thought would trigger a warming in ties, but tensions soared again the following year when Israel launched a military offensive in Gaza.
After years of bitter accusations and inflammatory rhetoric, the two sides held secret talks in December to seek a rapprochement, with another round taking place in February in Geneva.
Pressed by 103FM radio to say when he thought a deal might be completed, Steinitz said he hoped "in the coming weeks."
"There is a huge interest on both sides -- a strategic interest and an energy-related and economic one," he said.
The minister added that the passing in Israel of a long-debated agreement aimed at enabling the export of some of the country's natural gas to Turkey and Europe would help speed up a deal.
On May 31, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said that they had "made some proposals" on ways to ease the shortage of electricity and water in Gaza.
"The developments look like they are going positively," he said.
Turkey has repeatedly insisted on three conditions for normalisation: the lifting of the Gaza blockade, compensation for the aid ship victims and an apology for the incident.
Israel has already apologised and negotiations appear to have made progress on compensation for the victims of the raid.
The Gaza blockade has been the main hurdle.