At the end of US President's visit to Israel, reports emerge that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
has called Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan
and 'expressed apology' to the Turkish people for any error that could have led to the loss of life in the Marmara flotilla
In response Erdogan accepted the apology and agreed that there is a need to normalize relations. The reports were affiliated to a US official and they also claim Israel
has agreed to compensate the victims' families.
In what can be called the first direct result of US President Barack Obama's visit, minutes after his departure, news of a US orchestrated reconciliation between Israel and Turkey breaks.
Reuters reported that Israel apologized to Turkey on Friday for killing nine Turkish citizens in a 2010 naval raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla leading Israel and Turkey, both US allies, to agree to normalize relations.
Erdogan accepts apology (Photo: EPA)
The rapprochement could help regional coordination to contain spillover from the Syrian civil war and ease Israel's diplomatic isolation in the Middle East as it faces challenges posed by Iran's nuclear program.
In response, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan underlined the importance of strong cooperation and friendship between the Turkish and Jewish nations in a telephone conversation with his Israeli counterpart on Friday, his office said.
2010 Marmara incident (Photo: IDF)
"Erdogan told (Israeli premier) Benjamin Netanyahu that he valued centuries-long strong friendship and cooperation between the Turkish and Jewish nations," the statement from Erdogan's office said.
Meanwhile, A senior Israeli political official confirmed that a conversation between Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu and his Turkish counterpart Erdogan did indeed place, at Ben Gurion Airport in the presence of US President Barack Obama.
According to the source "Netanyahu belived it is important to make such a call in light of the developing situation in Syria.
Meanwhile, former Foreign Minster, MK Avigdor Lieberman said that Israel's apologizing for the actions of IDF soldiers against terrorist agents is a serious mistake.
Lieberman was Israel's Foreign Minister at the time of the Mavi Marmara incent in 2010, and according to him: "Anyone who has seen the pictures from the Marmara understands without a shadow of a doubt that the actions of the IDF soldiers were self-defense."
However, Opposition Leader Shelly Yachimovich praised Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's decision to reconcile with his Turkish counterpart Erdogan. According to her: "It is best to swallow one's pride and do what is smart and beneficiary for the country."
Yachimovich added that "we should hope that the reconciliation is the first step towards a new policy, strengthening Israel's diplomatic and strategic standing."
In a statement released by the White House only minutes before Obama ended a visit to Israel, the president said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erodgan had spoken by telephone.
"The United States deeply values our close partnerships with both Turkey and Israel, and we attach great importance to the restoration of positive relations between them in order to advance regional peace and security," Obama said.
The first conversation between the two leaders since 2011, when Netanyahu phoned to offer help after an earthquake struck Turkey, gave Obama a diplomatic triumph in a visit to Israel and the Palestinian Territories in which he offered no new plan to revive peace talks frozen for nearly three years.
Turkish papers report reconciliation
The 30-minute call was made in a runway trailer at Tel Aviv airport, where Obama and Netanyahu huddled before the president boarded Air Force One for a flight to Jordan, US officials said.
Israel bowed to a long-standing demand by Ankara, once a close strategic partner, to apologize formally for the deaths aboard the Turkish vessel Mavi Marmara, which was boarded by Israeli marines who intercepted a flotilla challenging Israel's naval blockade of the Palestinian-run Gaza Strip.
Mavi Marmara docked in Ashdod port (Photo: Avi Rokah)
"Prime Minister Netanyahu expressed an apology to the Turkish people for any error that may have led to the loss of life, and agreed to complete the agreement for compensation," an official Israeli statement said.
Netanyahu and Erdogan "agreed to restore normalization between the two countries, including returning their ambassadors (to their posts)," the statement added.
A US official said "Erdogan accepted the apology on behalf of Turkey."
Ankara expelled Israel's ambassador and froze military cooperation after a UN report into the Mavi Marmara incident, released in September 2011, largely exonerated Israel.
Israel had previously balked at apologizing to the Turks, saying this would be tantamount to admitting moral culpability and would invite lawsuits against its troops.
Voicing until now only "regret" over the Mavi Marmara incident, Israel has offered to pay into what it called a "humanitarian fund" through which casualties and their relatives could be compensated.
A source in Netanyahu's office said opening a new chapter with Turkey "can be very, very important for the future, regarding what happens with Syria but not just what happens with Syria".
Before the diplomatic break, Israeli pilots trained in Turkish skies, exercises widely seen as improving their capability to carry out long-range missions such as possible strikes against Iran's nuclear facilities.
Reuters also contributed to this report
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