Turkey, Israel in talks, may reach deal soon: Turkish official

Turkey, Israel in talks, may reach deal soon: Turkish official

Sevil Erkuş / Serkan Demirtaş - ANKARA
Turkey, Israel in talks, may reach deal soon: Turkish official

A file picture taken at the Israeli foreign ministry on October 15, 2015, shows Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) sitting next to Yossi Cohen, who is currently the head of Israel's National Security Council, and who was named as the 12th head of the Mossad intelligence agency by Netanyahu on December 7, 2015. Cohen will take over from outgoing Mossad head Tamir Pardo, who will be leaving his post after five years next January. AFP PHOTO / GALI TIBBON

A Turkish government official has confirmed to Hürriyet Daily News that Israeli and Turkish officials held talks in Switzerland over the broken ties and may reach a deal soon.

“We have not reached an agreement yet,” the official said on Dec. 17 while responding to a question on reports that said the two countries had reached a preliminary deal.

“But [talks] may result soon,” the official said.

Talks with Israel have been ongoing for some time, Turkish Prime Ministry officials told Hürriyet Daily News, adding that talks were continuing in a positive manner, but no consensus had been reached. 

Israel and Turkey have reached a preliminary agreement to normalize relations, including the return of ambassadors to both countries, Reuters quoted an Israeli official as saying earlier Dec 17.

A Turkish Foreign Ministry official told Hürriyet Daily News that the two countries have come to an understanding. The official said Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioğlu represented Turkey at the talks in Switzerland.

A preliminary deal was reached during a recent meeting in Switzerland between the incoming head of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency, Yossi Cohen, Israeli envoy Joseph Ciechanover and Sinirlioğlu, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

A spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declined comment and there was no immediate comment from the Turkish Foreign Ministry.

According to the report, under the preliminary agreement, Israel will establish a compensation fund for the Mavi Marmara incident during which Israeli marines killed 10 Turks aboard an aid ship that tried to break Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip in 2010. After the fund is established, Turkey will drop all claims against Israel.

The Israel-Turkey alliance ties deteriorated greatly after the incident.

Efforts to reconcile the countries, including in a 2013 phone call between Erdoğan and Netanyahu that was brokered by U.S. President Barack Obama, have yet to yield a final deal restoring full diplomatic ties.

Arouri’s name not specifically discussed

“There is a cynical interpretation of the recent developments in Turkey-Israel relations suggesting that Turkey has moved for normalization because it has ‘run into trouble’ in regards to its regional policy and it has been ‘isolated,’” a Turkish official said, dismissing such interpretations as “out of the question.”

“Since the crisis first erupted, we have always said that normalization would be beneficial for regional stability. We said this in 2010, in 2011, in 2012, in 2013, in 2014 and we are saying it now too,” the official told Hürriyet Daily News on Dec. 18.

There has been progress on the issue of compensation, he said, while insisting the lifting of the Israeli blockade of Gaza still remains on the table as a condition for normalization. Acknowledging the presence of good signs in regards to meeting the basic humanitarian needs of the Gaza people, the official however emphasized that the humanitarian needs matter should be resolved by turning this into a “structurally stable case.”

“We are close to a final framework. There is tangible, positive progress,” he said, adding that Turkey hoped “it will not be long” before there was a final agreement.

Noting that he had no information on whether prominent Hamas leader Saleh al-Arouri was in Turkey or not, the official said the issue was not at all part of negotiations with Israel, as Israeli media reports suggested Turkey would prevent Arouri from entering its territory and acting from there as part of the preliminary deal. 

“We did not discuss specific names,” the official said, adding that the matter would be dealt with if Israel conveyed it separately as a “security” matter.

He also said once the normalization was agreed to, other items such as Turkey importing gas from Israel would be discussed as part of trade relations.