Despite tensions between his own country and Turkey, Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday told a Moscow news conference with visiting Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu that he supports reconciliation between Israel and Turkey, Haaretz reported.
The Russian president's comments are seen as providing a substantial push in wrapping up efforts on a reconciliation agreement between Israel and Turkey, which are at a decisive stage.
Turkey and Russia have been in a state of open tension, ever since Ankara shot down a Russian fighter jet on the border last November, killing two Russian officers. In response, Russia issued vast sanctions on Turkey dealing serious financial damage to the country.
Putin has ruled out any reconciliation with Turkey’s leaders and accused Ankara of shooting down the Russian warplane to impress the United States.
But speaking on Tuesday with regards to the Israel-Turkey reconciliation process, he said, according to Haaretz, "We view it in a positive manner."
"We think that any rapprochement between countries and peoples can have a positive influence on the entire international situation. The fewer problems there are between countries the better," he added. In reference to Israeli-Turkish reconciliation efforts, Putin declared, "We welcome this process."
Ties between Israel and Turkey collapsed after the infamous 2010 Mavi Marmara incident, in which a Turkish flotilla tried to breach Israel's legal naval blockade on Gaza.
The main ship, later found not to be carrying humanitarian goods despite its claims, refused orders to turn around and forced IDF soldiers to board it where they were attacked and wounded by Turkish Islamists armed with knives and metal bars. The soldiers were forced to open fire to defend themselves, killing ten.
Under pressure from U.S. President Barack Obama, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu apologized to Turkey over the incident in 2013, and last December Israel reportedly agreed to pay $20 million in compensation to the families of the Islamists, launching the rapprochement talks, which have been ongoing since.
Earlier Tuesday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu estimated that it would take just one or two meetings to reach a rapprochement deal with Israel, indicating that the normalization talks started last December are reaching a close.
Putin's remarks at Tuesday’s news conference with Netanyahu reflected a change in direction on the part of Russia, which up to now in private diplomatic discussions with Israeli representatives had expressed reservations regarding the reconciliation efforts, according to Haaretz.
This is the first time that Putin or any other senior Russian official has expressed public support for the process.
Netanyahu’s trip to Russia is officially meant to mark 25 years of diplomatic relations between Israel and Russia, but is also being used by both sides to shore up a rapidly strengthening alliance.