Israel and Turkey are on their way to reconciliation—at least according to U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, who called Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Friday with the good news.
The call came just a few hours after Israel-Greece-Cyprus talks in Nicosia ended late Thursday, and Israeli officials believe that the announcement of a strategic alliance of the three countries spurred Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to expedite talks with Israel, which have seen numerous false starts in recent months.
After speaking with Biden, Netanyahu instructed Mossad chief Yossi Cohen and the head of the negotiating team, Joseph Chiechanover, to prepare for a meeting with their Turkish counterparts as soon as possible.
Last Wednesday, during the tripartite talks in Nicosia, Netanyahu referred to the reconciliation efforts with Turkey during a meeting with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras: “We are trying to normalize our relations with Turkey. I don’t know if we will succeed but I think we will persist with our efforts and it is up to us to ensure that Israel’s interests are maintained. Turkey and Israel had excellent relations in previous years and we didn’t want to see them deteriorate and we did not cause that deterioration, and if there is a change in policy, we will welcome it.”
“Both in Ankara and in Yerushalayim, we want good relations with Turkey,” a senior Israeli official said on the prime minister’s plane coming back to Israel.
“The prospects of making a breakthrough depend on accelerating the pace of negotiations. If that doesn’t happen, then arrangements with Greece and Cyprus will go forward, and the opportunity for including other countries [such as Turkey] in them will be missed,” he added.
This was a signal to Turkey that plans for laying a natural gas pipeline, as well as electricity cables, between Israel, Cyprus and Greece, and from there to Europe, will circumvent Turkey, if they don’t soon change their attitude toward Israel.