Turkey, Israel content with their first encounter after apology

Turkey, Israel content with their first encounter after apology

The first round of the much-anticipated compensation talks was concluded on Monday, leaving both sides satisfied with the initial result. An agreement outlining principles and parameters was reached, but both sides refrained from mentioning the exact amount of money to be paid to the families of the Mavi Marmara victims.

Diplomatic sources familiar with the talks that took place in Ankara under the co-leadership of Feridun Sinirilioğlu, undersecretary of the Foreign Ministry and Yaakov Admiror, the head of Israel’s National Security Council, told the Hürriyet Daily News that the first meeting had been very fruitful and friendly, indicating the willingness of both sides to repair ties.

Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç’s comments regarding Monday’s meeting reflected that this impression of diplomats is also shared by the Turkish government. “I can say it was a positive meeting,” he told a press conference following the weekly Cabinet meeting, adding that the two sides were of the same opinion that the issue should be swiftly resolved. Sources underlined that Arınç was very warm and receptive towards the Israeli delegation, in the first governmental meeting between Turkish and Israeli officials since the Mavi Marmara crisis broke three years ago.

The Israeli delegation is expected to pay another visit to Turkey in the coming days in order to finalize the deal. The text of the agreement will be made public after its finalization, in a bid not to leave what has been agreed behind closed doors.

The reason for this rush is twofold: the idea of negotiating a certain amount of money for human life is not a pleasant one. The Turkish government wants to quickly get rid of the issue without causing too much internal political discussion, as a significant group of Mavi Marmara activists openly criticize the government’s acceptance of compensation before the siege against Gaza has been fully lifted.

The second reason is to clear this particular problem with Israel and to start a normalization process before Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s visit to the U.S. in mid-May. Erdoğan wants to appear in Washington in a stronger position, in order to be in a much better negotiation position with U.S. President Barack Obama over a number of issues.

There’s no doubt that Erdoğan’s intention to visit Gaza at the end of May will continue to be a topic in the coming weeks. An experienced diplomat told me that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s statement that Erdoğan should better postpone his visit to Gaza had made this trip even more certain. As Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu recently said, Turkey believes that it will be better to carry out this visit after the reunification of the Hamas and Fatah groups. One could therefore expect more intensified talks between these two groups to be taking place soon, in order to finalize the long-awaited unity government, especially after Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas’ discussions with Turkish officials in Ankara over the weekend.