WASHINGTON – US President Barack Obama spoke on the phone with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan Wednesday night and asked him to accelerate the talks with Israel
and complete the normalization of relations, after ties between the countries suffered a significant blow following the Mavi Marmara incident in May 2010.
A statement released by the White House regarding the two leaders' conversation noted that the two spoke of "the importance of quickly concluding (Turkey's) normalization agreement with Israel."
The White House statement did not reveal the content of the discussion between Obama and Erdogan; however, the Americans have an interest in strengthening an alliance of Middle Eastern countries against the Iranian
threat on one hand, and against all radical Islamist terrorists on the other.
Obama and Erdogan during the latter's visit to Washington, DC (Photo: Reuters)
The talk between the two leaders also addressed the need to cooperate in light of increasing terror in Syria. "The president and prime minister agreed on the importance of close cooperation between our two countries to address the growing terrorist presence in Syria
and on the shared interest in continuing efforts to advance a political solution to the Syria conflict," the White House statement read.
The conversation between Obama and Erdogan came amid reports of progress in the talks between Israel and Turkey to resolve the crisis caused by the Mavi Marmara flotilla. Ten days ago, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu commented on the matter and said that the two countries are indeed close to normalizing their relations.
"Recently there has been momentum, a new approach, in the negotiations about compensation. We can say that most of the disagreements have recently been solved by these discussions," said Davutoglu in an interview with Turkish television.
He added that there were "positive developments" in the talks regarding the compensation, and that there have been significant developments.
Only two days passed since the Turkish foreign minister's remarks, and Erdogan rushed to express his reservation on the matter. "As long as the siege on Gaza isn’t lifted, (a normalization of relations) won’t happen. The siege must be lifted, and that must be part of the protocol, signed and agreed upon," said the Turkish prime minister, who was quoted by the country's news agency.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
clarified that the subject is not even up for discussion.
The close ties between Jerusalem and Ankara took a turn for the worse in May 2010 following the incident of the Mavi Marmara flotilla, in which nine Turkish citizens were killed by IDF
fire. For two years and 10 months, Erdogan demanded from Israel to apologize for the incident and slammed the Israeli administration more than once.
In addition, Turkey voiced demands to prosecute senior IDF officials, as well as the soldiers who participated in the incident. In March of 2013, as the visit of US President Barack Obama to Israel concluded, Prime Minister Netanyahu apologized to the Turkish government, and since then the parties have been discussing the agreement to restore the good ties between the two countries.