A month after US President Barack Obama brokers a reconciliation of Turkish-Israeli relations, a high level three member Israeli delegation commences talks with Turkey in Ankara under the auspicies of US Secretary of State John Kerry.
Relations between Turkey and Israel had been splintered by the Mavi Marmara ship affair in May 2010 after which Turkey recalls its ambassador. The ship is part of a six vessel flotilla which seeks to break Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza. Israeli authorities request the flotilla to alter its course and dock in Ashdod where the supplies on board can be inspected and then delivered by Israel to Gaza. The flotilla’s passengers are mostly members of a pro-Palestinian Turkish activist group who refuse the request. The ships are boarded by Israeli Navy commandos and a skirmish ensues on the Mavi Marmara between the commandos and the passengers. Nine Turkish citizens are killed in the raid.
The renewed talks are the result of increasing uncertainty over the Syrian Civil War and common concerns about Iran’s regional hegemonic growth.
Despite shared regional-strategic interests between Israel and Turkey, the talks only occur after the US strongly encourages Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to apologize to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for the Mavi Marmara incident. In addition to a lengthy discussion of potential compensation to the families of the nine Turkish nationals killed in the Mavi Marmara raid, talks also focus on Israel’s possible use of Turkish territory to launch an attack on Iranian nuclear sites, and a discussion on Erdogan’s planned visit to the Gaza Strip.
Previous to the deterioration of relations between the two states, Turkey and Israel share a long cooperative partnership. Formalized in March 1949, Turkey is the first Muslim country to establish diplomatic ties with the young Jewish state. This partnership continues for decades as the two countries conduct economic and military exchanges. To the disappointment of the US, despite the April 2013 talks, relations continue to be strained. In August 2013, Israel signs a framework agreement with Greece and Cyprus to link their nations’ electrical grids. Their trilateral understanding reinforces their respective nations’ access to enormous natural gas fields situated in the Mediterranean in close proximity to their countries, Lebanon and Turkey. With Israel already engaging in extracting this vast natural resource, Greece and Cyprus, whose economies have suffered recently, align with Israel for access to much needed gas supplies. This declaration excludes Turkey, however, further exacerbating the already tense relationship.
The photo shows a billboard picturing Erdogan (right) and Netanyahu in Ankara, Turkey on March 25, 2013. Photo Source: ADEM ALTAN / AFP/GETTY