Thursday, 25 April 2013

Turkey, Israel likely to put differences aside due to common interests

The compensation agreement reached between Turkey and Israel over a 2010 attack indicates the two former allies are committed to restoring ties amid uncertainty and upheaval in the Middle East, analysts say.

The Turkish government announced earlier this week that the two countries have stricken a framework deal on compensation payments for the victims of a deadly 2010 Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla in international waters that resulted in the deaths of eight Turks and one Turkish American.

"Both countries have been bearing the brunt of the spillover of the Syrian crisis that has been dragging on for over two years," Mehmet Seyfettin Erol, head of Ankara's International Strategic and Security Research Center (USGAM), told Xinhua over the phone.

"As Syria's instability poses risks for the national security of both countries, the leaders seem to have realized Turkey and Israel need to act together to confront the challenges," he explained.

An Israeli delegation led by Yaakov Amidror, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's national security adviser, met on Monday in Ankara with Turkish Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioglu. The results of the meeting, first in three years at this level, were reportedly positive.

The compensation agreement came after an official apology by Israel in March under U.S. President Barack Obama's mediation. The move may lead to resumption of ambassadors between the two countries with relations restored to full level.

"The meeting was positive, in general," Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said, stressing that bilateral ties will be restored when the deal is approved by both governments and that there will be follow-up meetings to hammer out its details.

"It will take time and careful diplomatic work to reset bilateral relations," Ibrahim Kalin, deputy undersecretary and chief foreign advisor to Turkish prime minister, said.

The normalization of ties between Turkey and Israel will also pave the way for cooperation between the two countries on energy projects in the Mediterranean, especially in the field of gas.

Charles Davidson, the CEO of U.S. company Nobel Energy that discovered natural gas reserves in the territorial waters of Israel and Cyprus, told Turkish media recently that they have already started to work on launching an energy project joined by Turkey and Israel.

Both Israel and Cyprus need Turkey to build a transit pipeline for the gas to reach European consumers as the liquefaction of gas for export via ships is a costlier alternative to ground transport.

Fikret Ertan, a foreign policy expert, said severing ties with Turkey endangered Israel's vital national security interests, and that Netanyahu finally recognized the "bitter reality" as his country was increasingly isolated in the region.

Others also said the growing rift between Ankara and Tehran has also pushed Turkey to mend fences with Israel which is already at odds with Iran over a number of issues.

"There is little doubt that Israel has recognized the importance of Turkey and its growing regional role and wants to normalize the bilateral relations," Amanda Paul, a Brussels-based analyst, said.

"After all, this relationship has been the most important partnership in the Middle East, counter-balancing Iran and having a wide geopolitical outreach," she added.

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