Turkey close to restoring diplomatic ties with Israel

AP News
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Posted: Jun 22, 2016 1:13 PM

ISTANBUL (AP) — 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' deadly storming of a 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 a televised interview with HaberTurk TV.

He dismissed reports circulating in Israeli media that the Islamic militant group Hamas maintains a military office in Istanbul.

But Turkey will continue to speak with Hamas leader Khalid Mashaal, as well as Palestinian President 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."

Israel's Haaretz daily reported Tuesday that Turkish and Israeli negotiating teams may conclude the reconciliation agreement on June 26.