Israeli and Turkish teams to meet in Europe on Thursday

Negotiating teams from Israel and Turkey will meet on Thursday in Europe in an effort to bridge the remaining gaps standing in the way of a reconciliation agreement between the two countries, Haaretz reported on Monday.

Senior Israeli officials noted that in recent weeks, and since the latest round of negotiations between the two countries, several drafts have been exchanged between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's envoy, Joseph Ciechanover, and Turkish Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioglu on the provisions of the reconciliation agreement that are still in dispute.  

The two main issues remaining to be resolved in the reconciliation agreement relate to Israel's demand that Turkey put a halt to the operations of the Hamas military headquarters in Istanbul and Turkey's demand that Israel take certain steps to ease the situation in the Gaza Strip, according to Haaretz.

In a speech last week to the Brookings Institution in Washington, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he was interested in having Israel "remove the embargo" on Gaza and allow Turkey to bring a power generator ship to the Gaza coast to supply electricity to the territory.

A senior Israeli official noted on Monday that when it comes to Gaza, Turkey will not be granted a special status, and Israel is willing to allow it to operate in the Strip in accordance with the same terms that apply to any country wishing to transfer aid. 

Another issue still under discussion is the order of the steps that will be taken after a deal is signed, according to the report. The senior Israeli official noted that only after all the standing cases against Israeli soldiers and officers in Turkey are closed will Israel transfer $20 million to a humanitarian fund, to be used as compensation for the families of Turkish citizens killed in the Mavi Marmara incident.

The relations between Turkey and Israel have been strained since 2010, following the incident on the Mavi Marmara, which attempted to breach Israel’s naval blockade on Gaza, but reports in recent months indicated that Israel and Turkey had reached "understandings" to normalize the ties that were downgraded following that incident.

The official who spoke to Haaretz on Monday was carefully optimistic about the coming round of the negotiations, saying, "There's a will to get it over with. 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."

In recent weeks, Erdogan has been conveying a series of messages to Jerusalem both publicly and through diplomatic channels regarding his desire to come to a reconciliation agreement. Last week, the Turkish president met in Washington with the leaders of major American Jewish organizations, telling them that he hoped to come to an agreement with Israel as soon as possible.

In another development, following last month's terrorist attack in Istanbul in which three Israelis were among the dead, Erdogan sent a condolence letter to Israeli President Reuven Rivlin. Several days later, the two presidents spoke by phone at Rivlin's initiative.

Source: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/210328

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