Israel-Turkey pact "very close" - report

Erdogan and Netanyahu

Turkish daily "Hurriyet" says the agreement on normalizing relations between Israel and Turkey includes gas exports.

The rapprochement agreement between Israel and Turkey is mostly ready, and when it is signed the two countries will again send ambassadors to each other, Turkish newspaper "Hurriyet" reports.

The report is based on statements to the newspaper by a senior member of the Turkish government. According to the source, relations between Israel and Turkey, which deteriorated following the Mavi Marmara incident in 2010, will shortly be restored to normal. In that incident, Israeli commandoes killed nine Turkish militants who resisted the takeover of the Mavi Marmara, which was part of a flotilla of ships attempting to break the Israel Navy's blockade of the Gaza Strip. Other ships in the flotilla were taken over by Israeli forces peacefully.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey laid down three conditions for normalization of relations with Israel: an apology for the Mavi Marmara incident; payment of compensation to the families of the Turkish casualties; and the lifting of the blockade on the Gaza Strip. In March 2013, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahufulfilled the first condition byapologizing to Erdogan, at the prompting of US President Barack Obama, and since then the two countries have held negotiations on the remaining conditions.

The Huriyet report mentions some of the details of the agreement, for example cancellation of legal proceedings opened in Turkey against senior IDF officers, among them former Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi and former Commander of the Israel Navy Eliezer Marom.

A "welfare fund" will be set up through which compensation will be paid to the families of the Mavi Marmara casualties. For its part, Turkey will undertake not to permit "terrorist activity" on its territory, and will expel Salah Al-Arouri, a senior member of the Hamas organization who found refuge in Turkey and who is suspected of, among other things, planning the abduction of three Israeli teenagers in Gush Etzion in 2014. The abduction and murder of the three boys led to the IDF's Operation Defensive Edge in the Gaza Strip in the summer of that year. Turkish sources say that Al-Arouri has in fact not been in the country for a long time.

From an economic point of view, the most significant part of the agreement relates to natural gas. According to the report, the agreement includes a section whereby negotiations on the export of gas from Israel to Turkey will begin immediately. Senior Israeli figures, among them Minister of National Infrastructures, Energy and Water Yuval Steinitz have talked a great deal in recent months about exporting gas to Turkey as a means of making progress on the gas agreement with the energy exploration companies designed to enable development of Israel's largest gas reserve, Leviathan. In addition, tensions between Turkey and Russia have compelled the former to seek sources of energy in other countries and reduce its dependence on Russia; hence the renewed openness to Israel.

The report does not mention any understandings that may have been reached on Erdoğan's third condition, the lifting of the Gaza blockade. According to the source, the agreement will be signed "very soon".

Erdogan's most recent public remark on relations with Israel came on his return from a visit to Saudi Arabia on December 31, when he said, "Israel is in great need of a country like Turkey in the region. We must accept the fact that we also have need of Israel."

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - - on January 17, 2016

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2016

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Erdogan and Netanyahu
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