Turkey's Erdogan sees quick normalization with Israel

AFP , Tuesday 29 Apr 2014

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he is prepared to normalize ties with Israel within days or weeks after counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu apologized for a deadly raid in 2010.

Erdogan, speaking on US broadcaster PBS late Monday, said US President Barack Obama was instrumental in arranging a phone call between the leaders of Israel and Turkey, which have been at odds since a 2010 Israeli commando raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla of aid ships left nine pro-Palestinian Turkish activists dead.

Officials said major progress has been made in recent weeks to narrow the gap between the two sides, by overcoming sticking points including the amount of compensation to be paid to Turkey.

Erdogan said the issue has been resolved.

"We have come to an agreement... with respect to compensation," he told PBS through a translator.

"And with respect to sending humanitarian aid to the people in Palestine through Turkey... is the other step of the negotiations, and with the completion of that phase we can move towards a process of normalization," Erdogan said.

"I think we're talking about days, weeks."

Erdogan said the first step "would no doubt be taken by the sending of ambassadors."

The May 2010 Israeli assault on the Turkish ship the Mavi Marmara in international waters en route to Gaza sparked widespread condemnation and provoked a major diplomatic crisis between the two countries.

Ankara expelled the Israeli ambassador, demanded a formal apology and compensation, and an end to the blockade on the Gaza Strip -- which is ruled by Hamas, a Palestinian militant group.

Talks on compensation began a year ago after Israel extended a formal apology to Turkey in a breakthrough brokered by Obama.

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