Turkish, Israeli diplomats resume talks, signal thaw in relations

FATIH ŞEMSETTIN IŞIK @semssami
ISTANBUL
Published 23.06.2015 14:43
Updated 23.06.2015 14:46

After years of sour relations, Turkish and Israeli diplomats have reportedly come together at a meeting in Rome, several Israeli media outlets reported on Tuesday.

According to the Israel-based Haaretz daily, Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioğlu held a meeting with Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs Dore Gold in Rome seemingly to resume talks about a reconciliation agreement between the two states after ties have remained frozen for over a year.

It has also been reported that Gold, who is a close associate of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, did not inform the Israeli National Security Advisor Yossi Cohen or Netanyahu's previous special envoy to Turkey, Joseph Ciechanover, who has handled ties with the Turkish government for five years. Sinirlioğlu was also the Turkish ambassador in Tel Aviv between 2002 and 2007.

In March 2013, during U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Israel, Netanyahu apologized to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on the phone for the Mavi Marmara incident in which six civilian ships in the aid flotilla were attacked in international waters by Israeli commandos on May 31, 2010, as they tried to break Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip.

While nine Turkish activists were killed and 30 other people injured, including one activist who died nearly four years after being critically injured, the event led to the deterioration of relations and the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador in September 2011. However the apology by Netanyahu in 2013 was not followed by an agreement on compensation or the total lifting of the blockade on Gaza and consequently, relations have remained at a low level though some diplomatic attempts have been made.

In May 2014, Istanbul's 7th High Criminal Court ordered the arrest of four Israeli officials – former Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, former navy Chief Eliezer Marom, former head of military intelligence Amos Yadlin and former air force intelligence chief Avishai Levy – who are being tried in absentia. Istanbul's public prosecutor's office demanded that the suspects be sentenced to prison terms amounting to a total of 18,032 years.

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