Turkish official confirms talks on normalizing ties with Israel

A Turkish government official on Thursday evening confirmed that Israeli and Turkish officials held talks in Switzerland and may reach a deal on normalizing ties soon.

“We have not reached an agreement yet,” the official told the Hürriyet Daily News in response to a question on reports which say that the two countries reached a preliminary deal.

“But (talks) may result soon,” the official added.

Earlier reports in Israel cited an Israeli official who said that “understandings” to normalize ties have been reached with Turkey.

Drafted in a secret meeting in Switzerland on Wednesday, the deal would have Israel pay compensation to the families of the radical activists on board the flotilla who attacked IDF soldiers with lethal force, and would also launch talks on natural gas exports to Turkey.

A Turkish foreign ministry official told Hürriyet Daily News on Thursday night that both countries have come to an understanding. The official said Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioglu represented Turkey at the talks in Switzerland and he returned to Turkey.

Ties between Israel and Turkey broke down after the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident, when elite IDF soldiers were forced to board the Turkish Mavi Marmara ship, which ignored repeated warnings to stop its attempt to breach the maritime blockade on Gaza – a blockade that is legal under international law, and is meant to stop the influx of weapons to terrorist groups.

The soldiers were brutally attacked by IHH Islamist extremists on board wielding knives and metal bars, and had no choice but to open fire, killing ten of the IHH members on board. After an investigation, Israeli authorities discovered the vessel to be carrying no humanitarian aid, despite the flotilla’s claims that it was on a “humanitarian” mission.

When Israel refused Turkey’s demand that it apologize for the incident and compensate the victims’ families, Turkey cut ties with the Jewish state. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu later apologized to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan over the Marmara incident, at the urging of the United States.

The sides were supposed to enter talks on compensation for the victims of the Marmara, but despite reports indicating Israel was offering extremely high sums of tens of millions of dollars, those negotiations stalled.

Erdogan has a long history of verbally attacking Israel, which he has continued to do even after Netanyahu’s apology and vocally supports the current wave of Arab terror in the Jewish state.

Nevertheless, Erdogan just earlier this week said that “normalization with Israel” was possible, adding that “there is so much the region could gain from such a normalization process.”