Netanyahu urges better Turkey ties, cites regional turmoil
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said the Jewish state and its former ally Turkey must repair their relationship because of the instability in their region.
Turkey cut its once extensive ties with Israel after Israeli marines killed nine Turkish pro-Palestinian activists in May 2010 on a vessel trying to breach Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip, a Palestinian enclave run by Hamas Islamists.
"Turkey and Israel are two important, strong and stable states in this region ... We must find ways to restore the relations we once had ... it is important, particularly now, for stability in the region in these times," Netanyahu's office said in a statement on Tuesday.
It said he gave the message to Turkish journalists in a meeting late on Monday.
While the statement gave no reason for the timing of his comments, both Israel and Turkey border Syria.
Turkey has called for Syria's president, Bashar al-Assad, to quit after he failed to heed calls for reform and the country has harbored Syrian rebels and tens of thousands of refugees along its border with Syria.
In Israel, Syria's 16-month-old conflict has spread concern that its chemical arsenal could fall into the hands of Hezbollah, the Lebanese Islamist group allied to Iran and Assad.
Israeli officials said on Tuesday that Assad's forces retained full control of such weapons, but that any indication they were about to reach Hezbollah could warrant military action by the Jewish state.
Numerous attempts by Israel and Turkey to rekindle their once-close strategic relationship have failed. Israel has rejected Ankara's demands for a formal apology, compensation for the families of those killed in the raid and end to the Gaza blockade.
There was no indication in Netanyahu's statement that Israel would change its stance and meet any of Turkey's demands.
A U.N. inquiry involving Israeli and Turkish representatives last September largely exonerated Israel's Gaza strategy and the interception of the Mavi Marmara, though it faulted the navy for excessive force.
(Writing by Maayan Lubell; Editing by Alison Williams)
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