Israel, Turkey negotiate reconciliation to end six-year dispute

Israel and Turkey have reached a reconciliation deal, an Israeli official confirmed Sunday.

Under the deal, Israel is to pay 20 million dollars to a fund for the families of nine Turkish nationals shot dead when Israel overpowered a ship headed to break the Gaza naval blockade in May 2010, the official said on condition of anonymity.

The compensation will end all claims against Israel and Israeli military personnel, who will not be sued at the international court.

Under the deal, Turkey also made a commitment to indemnify Israel against such claims by Turkish citizens, said the official.

In a document kept separate from the agreement itself, Turkey also agreed for "human" reasons, to help resolve the issue of Israeli soldiers killed but declared missing in Gaza, he said.

More details would be announced at noon (0900 GMT) Monday, said the official.

Israeli and Turkish representatives met in Rome on Sunday with the goal of settling a six-year conflict and normalizing ties between the two countries, which had grown increasingly volatile in recent years.

Turkish-Israeli relations were soured, among other events, in 2010 when Israeli soldiers opened fire on pro-Palestinian activists on a Turkish passenger ship seeking to breach Israel's maritime blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Israeli media earlier reported that under the deal, Israel also will allow Turkey to deliver anything it wishes to the Gaza Strip. However any shipments must pass through Israeli security checks in the southern Israeli port of Ashdod.

Israel would also allow Turkey, which is considered as having good ties with the Islamist movement ruling Gaza, to build a power station, hospital and desalination plant in Gaza, Israeli news site ynet reported. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and a delegation of aides landed in Rome, where Netanyahu was to meet with US Secretary of State John Kerry.

Turkey had demanded a full lifting of the Israeli maritime and land blockade of Gaza. However, since 2010 Israel has not restricted the entry of any goods into Gaza, except for so-called "dual use" items, such as cement and pipes, which can be used for civilian purposes but also for building attack tunnels and rockets.

The entry of such goods has remained supervised by Israel. Export of goods and the movement of people through Israeli border crossings has remained highly restricted.

Family members and supporters of two Israeli soldiers killed in Gaza, whose body parts are still being held by Hamas as bargaining chips, Sunday set up a protest tent outside Netanyahu's Jerusalem residence.

The family members said Netanyahu should only sign an agreement with Turkey on condition of a promise that the soldiers' bodies will be retrieved.

Netanyahu briefed his cabinet Sunday on the negotiations before leaving for Rome, saying "there is much mis- and disinformation about the possible agreement taking shape with Turkey," but that Israel was continuing public and behind-the-scenes efforts to retrieve the bodies of the fallen soldiers.

Critics were quick to slam the deal, with a former minister, Gideon Sahar, tweeting that it was a "national humiliation" that Israel was reportedly agreeing to pay millions into a compensation fund for the families of the nine Turkish nationals killed.

But Netanyahu supporters praised the deal for succeeding in getting Turkey to withdraw lawsuits against the Israeli soldiers at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Last update: Sun, 26/06/2016 - 22:58

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