Israeli and Turkish officials have been holding secret direct talks to try to solve the diplomatic crisis between the two countries, the Israeli daily Haaretz reported, quoting a senior official in Jerusalem on Tuesday.
The daily said a source from the Turkish Foreign Ministry and a US official also confirmed that talks are being held, though in Israel the prime minister and foreign minister's aides declined to comment.
Relations between the long-time allies in the Middle East deteriorated sharply after Israeli commandos killed eight Turks and one Turkish-American during a May 31 raid on an aid ship trying to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza. Turkey has sued Israel in international platforms and courts and demands an official apology and compensation for the families of the victims. Israel rejects the demands and claims its soldiers acted in self-defense.
Haaretz said the secret talks to mend ties are being held between an Israeli official on behalf of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Turkish Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioğlu, a firm supporter of rehabilitating ties with Israel.
According to the daily, the negotiations are receiving the Americans' support. Following Turkey's parliamentary elections on June 12, which resulted in a record win by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's Justice and Development Party (AK Party), Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu welcomed Turkey's “free and democratic” elections and said he wants to improve relations that were devastated by the flotilla incident. Speaking about improving ties with Turkey, the Israeli prime minister said Israel will always try to fix what's broken, and to fix and end the deterioration in ties with Ankara.
Today's Zaman obtained a paragraph from Netanyahu's letter to Erdoğan on Tuesday, which calls for a restoration of the cooperation and friendship that the two countries had enjoyed for “many generations.”
“My government will be happy to work with the new Turkish government on finding a resolution to all outstanding issues between our countries, in the hope of re-establishing our cooperation and renewing the spirit of friendship which has characterized the relations between our peoples for many generations,” the excerpt from the letter read.