Mavi Marmara 390.
(photo credit: Stringer Turkey / Reuters)
Talks to normalize frayed relations between Israel and Turkey "are on track and can be concluded at any time," Today's Zaman reported on Thursday, citing a Turkish official.
“This should not surprise anyone. I do not see any political obstacle standing in the way of normalization,” the official reportedly said.
The official's comments came just days after an Israeli diplomat was invited to a Turkish government reception
for the first time since the May 2010 IDF raid of the Mavi Marmara, in which nine Turks attempting to break the blockade of the Gaza Strip were killed.
Yosef Levi Sfari, Israel’s charge d’affairs at the Israeli embassy in Ankara,
took one small step inside the Cankaya presidential palace in Ankara late last month, sparking speculation of a possible rapprochement between the countries.
Turkey’s Hurriyet Daily News
reported that Levi
Sfari, whom it labeled a “senior Israeli diplomat,” was invited for the first
time since the May 2010 Mavi Marmara
incident to attend the reception held by
Turkish President Abdullah Gul on the national holiday marking one of the final
battles in the 1922 Turkish War of Independence.
This was the first time
Levi Sfari, who has been posted in Turkey since November 2011, attended an
official state reception. The invitation came about – the paper reported –
because of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s apology in March
for the Mavi
“Although the normalization process between the two
countries could not be completed and no ambassadors have been exchanged, the
Israeli issuance of an apology has been seen as sufficient for inviting the
charge d’affairs to the reception,” the paper reported.
Foreign Ministry declined comment.Turkey expelled Israel’s ambassador in
and downgraded diplomatic ties.
Although the Turkish paper
referred to Levi Sfari as a “senior diplomat,” he only holds the rank of second
secretary, the highest level Israeli diplomat the Turks will allow at the Ankara
embassy, but is not considered in Jerusalem as a “senior
Nevertheless, his invitation was recognized as a gesture that
may presage a slight thaw in the icy ties between the two countries.
invitation came just 10 days after Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan
blamed Israel for the events in Egypt
that brought about the overthrow of
president Mohamed Morsi, and just a few weeks after he blamed the recent unrest
in his own country on “an interest rate lobby,”
widely believed to be a
euphemism for Western Jewish businessmen.
While Netanyahu’s apology in
May – made at the urging of US President Barack Obama – was supposed to have
paved the way for an Israeli-Turkish reconciliation and the exchange of
ambassadors, talks for compensation payments quickly bogged down
as the Turks
added that they wanted an Israeli admission that the compensation payments were
the result of a wrongful act.Herb Keinon contributed to this report.