Turkey Close to Restoring Diplomatic Ties With Israel

ISTANBUL (AP) -
The cruise liner Mavi Marmara is towed by a Turkish tugboat (R) as it leaves the port of the northern city of Haifa August 5, 2010. Israel released an impounded Turkish aid ship on Thursday on which its navy killed nine pro-Palestinian activists in a botched boarding as they tried to run the Gaza Strip blockade in May Photo by Herzl Shapira/Flash 90*** Maariv & Agencies OUT *** *** Local Caption *** ùçøåø îøîøä ðîì çéôä äîùè ìòæä îùè òæä ñôéðä
The Mavi Marmara is towed by a Turkish tugboat (R.) as it leaves the port of Haifa, August 5, 2010. (Herzl Shapira/Flash90)

Turkey is close to reaching a deal with Israel to normalize diplomatic ties, a senior Turkish official said Wednesday.

Israel and Turkey were traditionally close allies, but ties broke down in 2010 over Israeli commandos’ storming of a provocative Gaza-bound Turkish aid ship. Relations declined further over Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s often fiery rhetoric against Israel.

Ibrahim Kalin, the Turkish president’s spokesman, said the two countries are “reaching the end of a lengthy process.”

“I believe the Palestinian people will find the agreement satisfactory since we’re making progress to address the energy shortage and water crisis in Gaza,” he added in an interview with HaberTurk.

He dismissed reports circulating in Israeli media that the Islamic terror group Hamas maintains a military office in Istanbul. But Turkey will nonetheless continue to speak with Hamas leader Khalid Mashaal, as well as Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, Kalin added.

Earlier Wednesday, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said it was up to Israel to meet Ankara’s “quite simple” conditions. One of Turkey’s key demands is the lifting of the Israeli blockade on Gaza.

“These conditions should be met by Israel,” said Cavusoglu. “When these conditions are met, we can normalize our relationship. We can send our ambassadors back.”

Haaretz reported Tuesday that Turkish and Israeli negotiating teams may conclude the reconciliation agreement as early as Sunday.