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Turkey, Israel make progress towards normalising relations: Ankara

For the second time in as many months, Turkish officials say they are close to normalising relations with Israel
A Turkish flag flies over the Gaza Port, subject to an Israeli blockade that Ankara has been pushing to end (AFP)

Turkey and Israel have agreed after talks in London to rapidly reach a deal on normalising ties after a bitter falling-out in 2010, the Turkish foreign ministry announced early on Friday.

"The teams made progress towards finalising the agreement and closing the gaps, and agreed that the deal will be finalised in the next meeting which will be convened very soon," the ministry said in a statement.

Turkish Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioglu, the Israeli prime minister's special envoy, Joseph Ciechanover, and acting chairman of Israel's National Security Council, General Jacob Nagel attended the meeting in London, according to a ministry statement.

Reconciliation talks between the two countries began in December. In mid-February, a Turkish official said a deal was close to being finalised, but it never materialised.

Historically, close ties between the two countries have been contentious for nearly a decade. In 2008, during Israel's offensive on Gaza, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, then the Turkish prime minister and the current president, stormed out of a debate with then-Israeli president Shimon Peres at the World Economic Forum in protest.

Ankara broke off diplomatic ties in 2010 after Israeli marines killed 10 Turkish activists aboard the Mavi Marmara ship which aimed to break the Gaza blockade. 

Turkey has always insisted that it would not normalise relations with Israel unless three conditions were met: Israel publicly apologises for what happened on the Mavi Marmara, the activists' families are compensated, and the Gaza blockade is lifted.

Turkish officials have previously said that the first two conditions have been met in talks with the lifting of the blockade remaining a main sticking point.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in February that the country was insisting on the lifting of the Israeli embargo on Gaza, not the blockade.

In technical terms, the embargo refers to restrictions on trade through “ports and territory” belonging to Israel, while the blockade refers to the “closing to international commerce by military force the coast” of Gaza.

The lifting of the embargo would allow Turkey to deliver supplies, such as medical or construction materials, to Gaza while the lifting of the blockade could allow for a free flow of goods and materials.

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