Turkey reports "progress" on talks to normalize relations with Israel

The Turkish Foreign Ministry said Friday that there has been "progress" in talks with Israel held this week on normalizing relations, which soured in recent years largely over the situation in the Gaza Strip.

"The deal will be finalized in the next meeting which will be convened very soon," the ministry said in a statement.

Haaretz newspaper in Israel reported that the talks in London - headed by an envoy from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office on the Israeli side and a top foreign ministry official from Ankara - lasted well into the night on Thursday, ending just before midnight.

The main gaps between the sides remain the Turkish demand that Israeli lift its strict blockade on the Palestinians in the embattled Gaza Strip, while the Israelis are insisting Turkey shuts down operations of Hamas, the Islamist movement, in Istanbul.

Turkish officials and pro-government media in Turkey have been increasingly positive recently on reconciling with Israel. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met a week ago with Jewish groups while on a trip to the United States.

Turkey was angered by Israel's bombardment of the Gaza Strip in early 2009. The next year, 10 Turkish citizens died when Israeli naval commandos raided an aid flotilla heading to Gaza, sending relations into a tailspin.

Netanyahu in 2013 voiced regret for the loss of life in the Mavi Marmara flotilla incident, with the US administration pressuring the two countries to mend fences.

In 2014, during the last Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, Erdogan was sharply critical of the Israeli forces, accusing them of genocide and being more barbaric than Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.

Last update: Fri, 08/04/2016 - 11:49

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