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30/09/2016

Turkey, Israel sign deal to normalise ties after six years

Global Europe

Turkey, Israel sign deal to normalise ties after six years

Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu was heavily criticised for the collapse of Israel's relationship with Turkey, due to the actions of his ex-Foreign Minister, Danny Ayalon, who went out of his way to attack Ankara, following the Mavi Marmara raid in 2010.

[IsraeliinUSA/Flickr]

Turkey and Israel signed a deal on Tuesday (28 June) to restore ties after a six-year rift, formalising an agreement which UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said sent a “hopeful signal” for regional stability.

The accord, announced on Monday (27 June) by the two countries’ prime ministers, was a rare rapprochement in the divided Middle East, driven by the prospect of lucrative Mediterranean gas deals as well as mutual fears over growing security risks.

It was formally signed on Tuesday by Turkey’s Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioglu in Ankara and Israel’s Foreign Ministry Director General Dore Gold in Jerusalem, officials said.

Relations between Israel and what was once its principal Muslim ally crumbled after Israeli marines stormed an activist ship in May 2010 to enforce a naval blockade of the Hamas-run Gaza Strip and killed 10 Turks on board.

Under the deal, the naval blockade of Gaza, which Ankara had wanted lifted, remains in force, although humanitarian aid can continue to be transferred to Gaza via Israeli ports.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said late on Monday the two countries might appoint ambassadors “in a week or two.”

Israel, which had already offered its apologies for the 2010 raid on the Mavi Marmara activist ship, agreed to pay out $20 million to the bereaved and injured. The deal requires Turkey pass legislation indemnifying Israeli soldiers.

“This is an important and hopeful signal for the stability of the region,” Ban said at a meeting with Israel’s president in Jerusalem on Monday.

Visiting a UN-run school and a Qatari-built rehabilitation hospital in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, he also called for an end to the Israeli blockade.

“The closure of Gaza suffocates its people, stifles its economy and impedes reconstruction efforts. It is a collective punishment for which there must accountability,” Ban said.

Israel says the Gaza blockade is needed to curb arms smuggling by Hamas, an Islamist group that last fought a war with Israel in 2014.

Background

Offshore gas seen as game changer in Israel-Turkey relations

The relations between Turkey and Israel have been marred since diplomatic relations broke down six years ago, after Israeli forces raided a Turkish ship bound for Gaza, killing 10 Turkish activists. But huge offshore gas discoveries in the Israeli and Cypriot economic zone have become a game changer.

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