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Turkey, Israel to agree normalisation deal June 26: Report

AFP , Tuesday 21 Jun 2016
Turkish Prime Minister and leader of Turkey's ruling party, the Justice and Development Party (AKP Party) Binali Yildirim addresses MPs during an AK Party's group meeting at the Grand National Assembly of Turkey (TBMM) in Ankara on June 21, 2016 (Photo: AFP)

Turkey and Israel will this weekend announce a deal on normalising ties, ending a six-year diplomatic crisis sparked by a deadly Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla in which 10 Turkish nationals died, a report said Tuesday.

The Hurriyet daily said the two sides would make the announcement during final talks on June 26 after intensive diplomacy resulted in a compromise agreement on the partial lifting of Israel's blockade on the Gaza Strip.

A Turkish foreign ministry official, contacted by AFP, neither confirmed nor denied a meeting between the two sides was planned this month.

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

Nine activists on board the Turkish-owned Mavi Marmara ferry were killed, with a tenth person later dying of his wounds, sparking a bitter diplomatic crisis.

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

Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said in live televised comments that "definitive progress" was made during the talks but they were not yet finalised.

"There are three things we have kept saying since the very beginning: apology, compensation and easing or totally lifting of blockade on Gaza," he told the private NTV television, saying Gaza had become an "open prison".

"The agreement has not reached a final point," he said.

"God willing, it will head toward a final point in a direction we want. Turkey is not at a point of making concessions."

Under terms of the deal, Israel will allow the completion of a much-needed hospital in Gaza, as well as the construction of a new power station and a sea water distillation plant for drinking water, Hurriyet reported.

Meanwhile, Turkey will send aid to Gaza but channel it via the Israeli port of Ashdod rather than sending it directly to the Palestinian enclave, the Turkish paper said.

The announcement would be made after talks between top Turkish foreign ministry official Feridun Sinirlioglu and Israel's pointman on Turkish relations, Joseph Ciechanover, it added.

Hurriyet did not say where the talks would be held.

The two diplomats would then meet again in July to formally sign the agreement after which ambassadors would return to the respective embassies and full ties would be restored.

Israel's Haaretz daily said Israeli and Turkish negotiating teams are to meet in a European capital on June 26 for a decisive round of talks on the reconciliation agreement.

Hurriyet said if a deal is forged, then joint military exercises, energy projects and joint defence investments can go ahead again.

Analysts have said Turkey may pursue a more conciliatory foreign policy following the departure of former prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who spearheaded an aggressive and interventionist strategy.

His successor Binali Yildirim last week said he wanted no permanent tensions with Black Sea and Mediterranean neighbours after serious ruptures not just with Israel but also with Egypt and Russia.

Israel imposed its blockade on Gaza in June 2006. The restrictions were tightened a year later when Hamas took control of the enclave, but eased significantly following a wave of international outrage over the flotilla carnage.

*This story was edited by Ahram Online.

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