ISTANBUL — Israel and Turkey have reached an agreement to repair ties after six years of strained relations over a deadly Israeli raid on a Turkish ship delivering aid to Gaza in 2010, officials said Monday. Ten Turkish activists were killed in the assault.
The rapprochement has potential wide-reaching security and economic ramifications in the region. Turkey and Israel once shared close military cooperation, and they have common worries over the Islamic State and other war-driven instability in Syria, which borders Turkey and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
The diplomatic thaw also could open new channels for outside assistance to the Gaza Strip. Both nations were once major destinations for two-way tourism, which has suffered in both countries because of ongoing violence.
“Relations with Israel have normalized,” Turkey’s prime minister, Binali Yildirim, said at a news conference in the Turkish capital, Ankara. “Long negotiations have taken place.”
The deal was reached Sunday in Rome, according to Israeli and Turkish officials, and will be signed by the two sides Tuesday.
In Turkey, the agreement will be submitted to parliament. It calls for increased Turkish investment and aid deliveries to the Gaza Strip, where access is tightly controlled by Israel. An initial shipment of 10,000 tons of aid will be dispatched as early as Friday, Yildirim said.
Israel will also provide a “humanitarian fund” of $20 million to family members of the activists killed on the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara, Turkish officials said. The ship was part of a flotilla that set sail with the aim of breaking Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza. The Israeli navy warned the ships to reverse course and eventually intercepted the flotilla.
A senior Turkish official called the agreement a “diplomatic victory” for Turkey and said that “representatives of the Palestinian government and Hamas have voiced their support” for the deal.
Turkey has urged Israel to lift its blockade on Gaza, which is ruled by the Palestinian Islamist militant organization Hamas. But a compromise was reached to allow Turkish aid to reach Gaza through the southern Israeli port of Ashdod, officials said.
Turkey will transfer materials to build residential buildings, as well as a new 200-bed hospital, the senior Turkish official said. Yildirim also said Turkey would work to invest in Gaza’s energy and water sectors, which have collapsed after years of Israeli blockades and sporadic conflict.
Israeli media reports said Monday that Turkey had agreed to use its influence with Hamas to halt attacks on Israel and help recover the remains of two Israeli soldiers killed in the territory during a war in 2014. Turkish officials denied those reports, however.
“This isn’t a cease-fire agreement,” Yildirim said.
Still, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the deal with Turkey was an “important step.”
It has “immense implications for the Israeli economy,” Netanyahu told reporters in Rome after meetings with Secretary of State John F. Kerry on Monday.
Before the diplomatic rupture in 2010, when both sides recalled their ambassadors, Turkey and Israel maintained close economic and military ties. Despite the crisis, trade continued and exceeded $5 billion in 2014, according to the Washington-based Brookings Institution.
The effort to rebuild ties has been driven by both countries’ security concerns as Syria and other Middle Eastern nations fight protracted civil wars. Turkey also has tense relations with Russia and is looking to Israel to help supply natural gas.
The agreement would further isolate Israel’s archrival, Iran, which also shares a border with Turkey, said Israel’s minister of construction and housing, Yoav Galant, a former army commander, in an interview with Israel’s army radio.
“The reconciliation deal between Turkey and Israel is motivated partly by the increasing prominence in the region of their common rival, Iran,” said Ege Seckin, senior analyst at IHS Country Risk, a global risk analysis firm.
“The deal has enormous consequences for Israel and Turkey, both economically and strategically,” said Eli Shaked, Israel’s former consul general in Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city.
Shaked and other analysts said it is unlikely that relations would immediately return to their level of six years ago.
“This is a positive development for both sides,” said Galia Lindestrauss, an expert in Israeli-Turkish relations at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv. But “it will be development to change perspectives.”
This article originally appeared on the Washington Post.
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