Israel and Turkey sign deal to repair relations after six-year split

from The Washington Post,

Israel and Turkey have reached an agreement to repair ties after six years of strained relations over a deadly Israeli raid on a Turkish ship delivering aid to Gaza in 2010, officials said Monday. Ten Turkish activists were killed in the assault. The rapprochement has potentially wide-reaching security and economic ramifications in the region. Turkey and Israel once shared close military cooperation, and they have common worries over the Islamic State and other war-driven instability in Syria, which borders Turkey and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. The diplomatic thaw could also open new channels for outside assistance to the Gaza Strip. And both nations were once major destinations for two-way tourism, which has suffered in both countries because of ongoing violence. “Relations with Israel have normalized,” Turkey’s prime minister, Binali Yildirim, said at a news conference in the Turkish capital, Ankara. “Long negotiations have taken place.” The deal was reached Sunday in Rome, according to Israeli and Turkish officials, and ... signed by the two sides Tuesday. [Israel’s budding outreach to Moscow] In Turkey, the agreement will be submitted to parliament. It calls for increased Turkish investment and aid deliveries to the Gaza Strip, where access is tightly controlled by Israel. An initial shipment of 10,000 tons of aid will be dispatched as early as Friday, Yildirim said. Under the deal, Israel will provide a “humanitarian fund” of $20 million to family members of the activists killed on the Turkish ship, the Mavi Marmara, Turkish officials said. The ship was part of a flotilla that set sail with the aim of breaking Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza. The Israeli navy warned the ships to reverse course and eventually intercepted the flotilla. A senior Turkish official called the agreement a “diplomatic victory” for Turkey and said that “representatives of the Palestinian government and Hamas have voiced their support” for the deal.

Turkey has urged Israel to lift its blockade on Gaza, which is ruled by the Palestinian Islamist militant organization Hamas. But a compromise was reached to allow Turkish aid to reach Gaza through the southern Israeli port of Ashdod, officials said.

Israeli media reports said Monday that Turkey had agreed to use its influence with Hamas to halt attacks on Israel and help recover the remains of two Israeli soldiers killed in the territory during a war in 2014. Turkish officials denied those reports, however. “This isn’t a cease-fire agreement,” Yildirim said. Still, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the deal with Turkey was an “important step.” It has “immense implications for the Israeli economy,” Netanyahu told reporters in Rome.

The effort to rebuild ties has been driven by both countries’ security concerns as Syria and other Middle Eastern nations fight protracted civil wars, sparked by the unrest of the Arab Spring, which began in late 2010.

Israel also hopes the agreement will curb the rising power of its arch-rival, Iran, which recently struck a landmark nuclear deal with the West.

“Ankara feels the burn and knows that it cannot have all enemies and adversaries in the Middle East,” Cagaptay said. “Hence its final push for normalization with Israel.”

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