Middle East

Israel, Turkey to restore ties

Turkey and Israel are set to restore relations, which were broken off in 2010 after Israeli marines killed 10 Turks aboard a pro-Palestinian activist ship.

Israel and Turkey have reached a preliminary agreement to normalise relations, including the return of ambassadors to both countries, an Israeli official says.

The deal was reached during a recent meeting in Switzerland between the incoming head of Israel's Mossad intelligence agency, Yossi Cohen, Israeli envoy Joseph Ciechanover and at the Turkish foreign ministry under secretary Feridun Sinirlioglu, the official said on Thursday, speaking on condition of anonymity.

A spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declined comment and there was no immediate comment from the Turkish Foreign Ministry.

Under the preliminary agreement, Israel will establish a compensation fund to address the killing by Israeli marines of 10 Turks aboard a pro-Palestinian activist ship that tried to break Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip in 2010, the official said. Turkey would then drop all claims against Israel.

The once-strong Israel-Turkey alliance has soured dramatically under Turkish leader Tayyip Erdogan, who heads the Islamist-rooted AK Party, reaching a low with the raid on the Gaza-bound ship.

Efforts to reconcile the countries, including in a 2013 phone call between Erdogan and Netanyahu that was brokered by US President Barack Obama, have yet to yield a final deal restoring full diplomatic ties.

The channel between Israel and Turkey, which borders Iraq, Iran and Syria, was long seen as a key element in US policy in the region. With the rise of Islamic State and the complexities of relations with Iran, it retains importance for Washington.

With recent tensions between Turkey and Russia, Israeli officials say that Ankara has expressed new interest in importing natural gas from Israel.

According to the agreement reached in Switzerland, the official said, the countries will discuss the possibility of constructing a pipeline to supply Turkey with gas.