Netanyahu lauds benefits of normalizing ties with Turkey

June 27, 2016

ROME (AP) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that his nation’s agreement with Turkey to normalize ties will have “immense” implications for the Israeli economy. The Israel-Turkey reconciliation deal, which is to be officially announced later in the day, is meant to end a bitter six-year rift between the Mideast powers. News of the deal first emerged on Sunday, and an Israeli official confirmed the details of the deal to The Associated Press. He spoke on condition of anonymity pending a formal announcement.

Speaking in Rome during talks with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Rome, Netanyahu said Monday the agreement is an important step, alluding to the development of Israel’s offshore natural gas reserves.

“I use that word advisedly, immense implications for the Israeli economy, and I mean positive immense implications,” the Israeli prime minister said. As Netanyahu and Kerry met for the second time in as many days, the U.S. top diplomat welcomed the agreement and congratulated Netanyahu. He said the U.S. has been working on the rapprochement for several years, and called it a “positive step.”

Israel and Turkey were former close allies, but relations imploded in 2010 following an Israeli naval raid that killed nine Turkish activists, including a dual American citizen, who were on a ship trying to breach Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Following the incident, Turkey withdrew its ambassador to Israel and greatly scaled back military and economy ties. The move toward rapprochement comes amid Turkey’s deepening isolation in the region, following a deterioration of ties with Russia and Egypt as well as the turmoil in neighboring Syria.

An Israeli official said the impending deal would include $20 million in Israeli compensation for families of those killed in the raid, an end to all Turkish claims against Israeli military personnel and the state of Israel over the raid, and the mutual restoration of ambassadors.

A senior Turkish official said that under the agreement, Turkey would deliver aid to Gaza and engage in infrastructure investments to construct residential buildings and a hospital, and to address energy and water shortages in Gaza.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan briefed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas about the deal, the official Palestinian news agency WAFA said on Monday. Officials from Erdogan’s office said Abbas expressed his “satisfaction” over the deal.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not permitted to speak publicly about the matter.

Associated Press writer Daniel Estrin in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

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