(photo credit: REUTERS/Osman Orsa)
While there has been progress in talks to normalize relations with Turkey over
the last few weeks, diplomatic officials stopped well short of confirming a
Turkish newspaper report Wednesday that compensation talks between the countries
over the Mavi Marmara incident were “nearly finalized.”
“There has been
progress,” said one official informed of the talks, adding however that reports
of an imminent deal were “premature.”
The daily Hurriyet quoted a Turkish
diplomat Wednesday as saying that compensation talks for the Mavi Marmara have
been “almost finalized” at a meeting last week in Istanbul.
said that the “vast majority of the text for compensation agreement is settled,”
and that all that still had to be worked out was the amount.
also added that the sides agreed on the wording of the text, including a
definition of compensation.
In July, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent
Arinc said that the reason for the deadlock in compensation talks was not the
money, but rather Israel’s unwillingness to admit that the compensation payment
was the result of a wrongful act.
“Israel should accept that it’s paying
this money as a result of its wrongful act. Nothing less than this will be
accepted,” he said at the time.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on March 22 and offered an apology
for any operational errors that might have led to the death of nine Turkish
activists on the Mavi Marmara ship trying to break the blockade of Gaza in
The phone call came at the urging of US President Barack Obama, who
was visiting at the time, and took place from Ben-Gurion airport just before
Obama left the country.
Israeli officials said that the formula for the
apology was very carefully crafted, so as not to admit any Israeli legal
culpability, and that Israel would not sign a compensation package admitting
According to Wednesday’s Hurriyet report, Jerusalem and
Ankara will immediately announce the upgrading of relations, and an exchange of
ambassadors, once the agreement is approved.
Ankara recalled its
ambassador from Israel immediately after the incident, and expelled Israel’s
envoy in 2011.
After the March phone call and apology, the expectation
was for ambassadors to be dispatched by the summer.
delegation, headed by National Security Adviser Yossi Cohen, and including
Joseph Ciechanover, an envoy from the Prime Minister’s Office, and acting
Foreign Ministry director-general Nissim Ben Sheetrit went to Istanbul last week
and met with Feridun Sinirlioglu, undersecretary of the foreign minister.
Sinirlioglu is a former Turkish ambassador to Israel.
The report of
movement in the talks emerged amid a major corruption scandal roiling Turkey,
creating friction between Washington and Ankara, with Erdogan hinting Saturday
that the US ambassador could be expelled.
One source acknowledged there
may be something to speculation that sudden progress in the Israel-Turkish talks
may be linked to the current US-Turkish tension, with Ankara possibly looking
for ways to lower the heat with Washington by normalizing ties with Israel,
something seen as important in Washington.