Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

After Six-Year Freeze, Israel and Turkey Agree to Normalize Relations

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

After Six-Year Freeze, Israel and Turkey Agree to Normalize Relations

Article excerpt

The once-close allies of Turkey and Israel have reached an agreement to normalize ties after a six-year rift, after Israeli marines killed nine Turkish activists aboard a humanitarian ship attempting to break the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip in 2010.

According to the agreement, which the countries are expected to announce Monday, Israel will pay $20 million to the bereaved and injured aboard the Mavi Marmara passenger ship, while Turkey will deliver aid and carry out infrastructure improvements in Gaza. The arrangement could also benefit Israel's interest in developing its offshore natural gas reserves.

Resumed diplomacy between the two countries could bring a measure of peace to a region destabilized by the Islamic State, the Syrian civil war, and the migrant crisis. Diplomacy between Israel and Turkey could bring Turkey closer to two of its rivals, Greece and Egypt, as well.

A senior Turkish official said the agreement was a "diplomatic victory," according to Reuters.

"We reached an agreement Israel to normalize bilateral relations on Sunday in Rome," the official said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was in Rome Monday with US Secretary of State John Kerry Monday, said the agreement is an important step, alluding to the development of natural gas reserves off the Israeli coast.

"I use that word advisedly, immense implications for the Israeli economy, and I mean positive immense implications," said Mr. Netanyahu.

As the first majority-Muslim country to recognize Israel, in 1949, Turkey had long been one of Israel's closest allies in the Muslim world. The countries grew even closer during the 1990s, but they then began to drift apart because of Israel's conflicts with the Palestinians. "The final straw" was Israel's attack on the Mavi Marmara flotilla in 2010, as The Christian Science Monitor reported in December. The two countries then withdrew their ambassadors, and gave each other the cold shoulder. …

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