Photo Credit: public domain
Geneva, Switzerland.

Israeli and Turkish diplomats are meeting today (Feb. 10) in Geneva, Switzerland, according to reports in both Israeli and Turkish media.

Although Turkish diplomatic sources did not confirm the report, Turkey’s NTV said Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioglu was traveling to Geneva for the meeting.

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Likewise, although it has not been confirmed, it is likely the two sides are starting to focus on the thorny issue of Israeli national security and Turkey’s insistence on ending the blockade of Gaza. The region has become the central headquarters for a number of radical Islamist terrorist organizations, not the least of which includes its ruling government, the Hamas terrorist group — which has its international headquarters in Istanbul, funded by Iran.

In general, the talks are continuing over how to heal the broken ties between the two former allies following two separate ice-breaker meetings in Ankara between 51 American Jewish leaders with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu earlier this week.

Turkish media ascribes the break to the Mavi Marmara incident in 2010, when a Turkish-owned vessel participated in an illegal flotilla aiming to breach Israel’s blockade of Gaza.

When the flotilla ignored Israeli Navy orders to redirect to Ashdod port, IDF commandos boarded each vessel to bring them in, including the Mavi Marmara. But on that vessel the commandos, armed only with pistols and paintball guns, were attacked by terror activists armed with knives and iron bars. During the clash that ensued, 10 attackers were killed, and a number of IDF commandos were seriously wounded.

Turkey used the incident as an excuse to break its ties with Israel and demanded a formal apology, compensation to families of the “victims” — and removal of Israel’s blockade of Gaza. This would open Israeli citizens wide to the results of a massive delivery to Hamas of weaponry from Iran, not to mention opening the border wide to infiltration of terrorists into Israel, further exacerbating the current wave of terror.

Such a request can be likened to asking Turkey to drop any military defense against the PKK — the Kurdistan Workers’ Party terrorist organization which is recognized by the international community as a terrorist group. The PKK has repeatedly attacked Turkish citizens and government officials. Turkey’s military does whatever it can to defend against the group and eliminate it.

Israel officially “apologized” to Turkey in 2013 over the deaths of her citizens. Discussions over compensation are continuing, according to the Turkish Hurriyet Daily News.

However, Turkey’s Daily Sabah newspaper reported Wednesday that Israel had agreed to pay Turkey $20 million in compensation, which is to be transferred to a special fund “that will in turn provide grants to the families of the Turkish citizens who were killed on injured in the Israel commando raid of the Mavi Marmara, in accordance with the recent agreement between the two countries.”

Turkey continues to maintain a hardline attitude, however, on what it calls “the Palestinian cause in talks with Israel.”

According to the Turkish Hurriyet Daily News, discussions on “how Turkish access to Gaza will be provided in an unrestricted fashion have yet to be clarified.”

The Daily Sabah quoted presidential spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin at a recent Ankara briefing as saying Israel must meet all three conditions to normalize relations. He added Turkey “will continue to play its role until a two-state solution is reached and the Palestinian people have their own state. Permanent peace cannot be achieved in the region without resolving the Palestinian issue,” Kalin said.

However, despite the chilly diplomatic atmosphere business is quite brisk between the two nations.

The group that owns the license to Israel’s mammoth Leviathan natural gas field recently signed a new $1.3 billion contract to supply the Israeli Edeltech Group and its Turkish partner, Zorlu Enerji.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.