Erdogan and Netanyahu.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israeli and Turkish officials confirmed on Monday that, after six years, the two countries are close to normalizing ties.
“We are close to reaching a deal, but we are sill not there,” a senior Israeli official said.
Two of Ankara’s three conditions for reaching an agreement have been met, Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said on Monday.
Turkish and Israeli officials plan to hold more meetings toward the restoration of high-level diplomatic ties, he told reporters after a cabinet meeting.
The two sides remain at odds over Israeli restrictions on the flow of goods into Gaza as well as the IDF’s aerial and naval blockade of the Strip.
Ankara is insisting that Israel lift all its restrictions on Gaza, including the military blockade.
Israel has refused to cede to this request.
Jerusalem and Ankara lowered the level of their diplomatic ties in 2010 after the IDF halted a Gaza-bound flotilla intent on breaking Israel’s naval blockade.
The IDF killed 10 Turkish activists in the violent clashes that broke out when they forcibly boarded the Mavi Marmara ship. Ambassadors from both countries were recalled, but the embassies remained open. Lower level ties, including tourism and business, have continued.
In 2013, both countries pledged to reconcile their differences and work toward restoring normal ties after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called former Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and expressed regret for Israel’s role in the deaths.
He did so at the tail end of a visit by US President Barack Obama, who had worked behind the scenes to bring both countries to the negotiating table.
Israeli and Turkish officials have worked out an Israeli compensation mechanism for the Mavi Marmara incident.
Ankara also is looking to mend its ties with Russia, which soured after Turkey shot down a Russian warplane over Syria last year.
Kurtulmus said the two countries do not have insurmountable problems, adding he thinks ties with Russia will be fixed in a “short while”.
Netanyahu will fly to Moscow next month to celebrate 25 years of diplomatic relations between the Israel and Russia.