Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan makes a speech at the Presidential Palace in Ankara.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israel and Turkey held yet another round of reconciliation talks at an unannounced location in Europe on Thursday, but the long awaited rapprochement between the erstwhile allies remains elusive as no announcement was made of a resumption of full diplomatic ties.
“Meetings with Israel have been taking place for a while and they are continuing today,” Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said in Ankara. “If our demands are received favorably, then the next steps will be clear and the necessary announcements will be made to the public.”
Israel is 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 talks have continued on and off for months, with frequent reports in the Turkish media of an impending breakthrough. One major obstacle to an agreement is Israel’s demand that Turkey not house a Hamas command center in Istanbul.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in Washington last week that he expected the talks to yield positive results. During that visit, Erdogan met with a group of leaders of US Jewish organizations.
Last month’s terrorist attack in Istanbul, during which three Israelis were among the four people killed, led to a phone call between Erdogan and President Reuven Rivlin.
Erdogan’s conversation with Rivlin was his first talk with an Israeli leader since Netanyahu called him on March 22, 2013, on the last day of US President Barack Obama’s visit that year to Israel, to offer a conditional apology for the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident that poisoned Israeli-Turkish ties.
Netanyahu, asked about ties with Turkey at a press conference last month, said “we always wanted proper ties with Turkey, and we are not the ones who changed that direction.
If it is possible, we will normalize ties.
There are contacts, they are taking place, they are even making progress. There will certainly be another meeting soon. I hope that it will lead to the positive result of a reestablishment of full ties.”
Former National Security Council head Yaakov Amidror, now a fellow at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, said in an interview with Israel Radio that both sides have an interest to finally putting a close to the Mavi Marmara incident and returning to normal relations.
Amidror, who was involved in talks with the Turks while he was head of the NSC from 2011 to 2013, cautioned that even when full ties resume, they will “not be like the special relations that existed before Erdogan came to power [in 2002]. It is a different government.”
Amidror said that both sides have their demands, but both sides also have an interest in now moving on.
He noted that what is making a resolution to the conflict more likely now is the fact that while in the past Turkey only thought that a reconciliation was in Israel’s interest, and that they therefore could make demands without giving anything in return, now Ankara realizes a restoration of ties is also in its own interest, perhaps even more so than in Israel’s.
Amidror said that there is a reason that no agreement has been reached yet. “We want certain things that we will not give up on, and there are certain things that even if the Turks want, they won’t get because it runs contrary to Israel’s basic interests.”
While Israel is demanding Turkey stop hosting Hamas, Turkey has for years demanded that Israel lift its maritime blockade of Gaza, something Jerusalem has made clear it will not do.