Turkish, Israeli Negotiators to Meet Thursday to Try to Bridge Gaps

YERUSHALAYIM -

Turkish and Israeli negotiators have been exchanging drafts of a reconciliation agreement and are scheduled to meet on Thursday to resolve the remaining problems, Haaretz reported on Monday night.

Senior Israeli officials are saying that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s personal envoy, Joseph Ciechanover, and Turkish Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioglu have gone through several drafts in recent weeks, trying to settle the vexing issues: the blockade of Gaza, Turkish sheltering of Hamas terrorists, the compensation for families of Turkish nationals killed on the Mavi Marmara, and closing the cases on IDF officers.

How close the two sides really are to a final agreement is hard to say. In a speech last week to the Brookings Institution in Washington, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was still saying that he wanted Israel to “remove the embargo” on Gaza and allow Turkey to station a vessel offshore to supply electricity to the territory.

But a senior Israeli official said that Turkey will not be granted any special access to the Hamas enclave.

Regarding financial compensation for the families — $20 million to be put into a humanitarian fund — Israel is insisting that the monies be transferred only after litigation against IDF officers and soldier is closed, and not before. Turkey has not yet agreed to this.

Still, officials are reportedly hopeful that there is light at the end of the tunnel, and that six bleak years of hostility will soon come to an end.

“There’s a will to get it over with,” one said. “We haven’t seen such positive comments from Turkey in the last six years. We hope to find a formula that will enable an agreement.”