With Jerusalem maintaining complete “radio silence” on the status of rapprochement talks with Turkey, Ankara is sending mixed messages. A presidential spokesman in Ankara said on Monday that Turkey will not drop its demand for an end to Israel’s blockade of Gaza, just three days after a Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman said a deal is imminent.
“What happens in Gaza is unacceptable, the occupation by Israel must end,” Ibrahim Kalın, a spokesman for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said on Monday.
On Friday, a day after high level Turkish and Israeli officials met in London, the Turkish Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying “The teams made progress toward finalizing the agreement and closing the gaps, and agreed that the deal would be finalized in the next meeting which will be convened very soon.”
In Israel, both the Prime Minister’s Office and the Foreign Ministry declined to comment – as they have done for months – on the talks.
Israel was represented at the talks by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s envoy Joseph Ciechanover and deputy head of the National Security Council Yaakov Nagel, and the Turks by Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioglu, a former ambassador to Israel. The two sides have been meeting for months in an attempt to reach an agreement that would reestablish the full diplomatic ties that were curtailed after the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident.
The talks have continued on and off for months, with frequent reports in the Turkish media of an impending breakthrough.
Two major obstacles to an agreement are Israel’s demand that Turkey not house a Hamas command center in Istanbul, and Turkey’s demand that Israel lift its maritime blockade of the Gaza Strip.
Israel has made clear that it does not intend to lift the blockade, which it deems vital for the country’s security, although it is apparently willing to let Turkey ship some humanitarian aid to Gaza.
According to the Daily Sabah newspaper, another Turkish demand is that Israel let Turkey dispatch to the area a power-generating ship to relieve the energy shortage in Gaza. According to the report, Israel did not reject the idea and is considering it, although there is concern that it would set a precedent.
This idea was first broached already in 2014.
The Turkish newspaper said that the next meeting between the two countries will take place within two weeks.