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Israel, Turkey to hold normalisation talks in Rome on Sunday

Analysts say it is likely that an Israel-Turkey agreement will be concluded on Sunday
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (above) and US Secretary of State John Kerry will also meet in Rome on Sunday (AFP)

Israeli and Turkish negotiators will meet on Sunday in Rome, aiming to reach an agreement on normalising relations after the two countries fell out six years ago, sources said.

Previously, the discussions had been expected to take place in Turkey.

If an agreement is reached, it would go before Israel's security cabinet for approval on Wednesday, according to media reports and an Israeli official who requested anonymity.

Analysts say it is very likely that an agreement will be concluded on Sunday.

A meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Secretary of State John Kerry is also expected on Sunday in the Italian capital to discuss the state of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.

Once-tight relations between Israel and key NATO member Turkey were significantly downgraded after Israeli commandos staged a deadly pre-dawn raid on a six-ship flotilla in May 2010 as it tried to run the blockade on Gaza.

Two of Turkey's key conditions for normalisation - an apology and compensation - have largely been met, leaving its third demand, that Israel lift its blockade on the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, as the main obstacle.

According to the Turkish daily Hurriyet, the two sides have reached a compromise whereby Turkey would send aid for Palestinians via the Israeli port of Ashdod rather than directly to Gaza.

Kerry, Netanyahu

Kerry left Washington on Saturday to meet Netanyahu ahead of the publication of an international report expected to criticize Israeli settlement building.

Kerry was flying to Rome to meet the Israeli leader on Sunday and Monday. Some reports have suggested he will use the meeting to assess the possibility of reviving the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

But US officials have been careful not to predict any breakthroughs and the meeting is likely to touch on the imminent release of a report by the Quartet, which is seeking to foster a "two-state" solution to the conflict.

This diplomatic group -- the UN, the EU, the US and Russia -- is concerned that Palestinian violence and Israel's building on occupied land is pushing the prospect of peace further away.

This week, ahead of Kerry's trip, his spokesman John Kirby said: "There are plenty of issues coming up that merit Israel and the United States's discussion."

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