JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Efforts by Israel and Turkey to restore their once strong relationship could be helped by the common threats they face from Islamic State militants and Iran, a senior Israeli diplomat said on Tuesday.
Israeli-Turkish ties have soured during Tayyip Erdogan’s rule in Ankara, but his Islamist-rooted AK Party’s setbacks in a June 7 election and the reshaping of the region has stirred speculation about a realignment of interests.
Delegates from both sides have been trying to finalize a compensation deal over 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.
Asked where the reconciliation efforts stood, Dore Gold, the director-general of Israel’s Foreign Ministry, told reporters: “I think there is an effort by both sides to see whether we can move forward, how do you say, to turn over a new leaf and see whether we can improve our relations.”
“The threats that Israel faces are the threats that Turkey faces - in particular the threats of ISIS (Islamic State) and above all the threat of Iran. Iran is active in trying to undermine Turkey and hopefully we can find an agreed path to putting our disagreements behind us,” Gold said.
He declined to elaborate on the alleged threat to Turkey from Iran. Erdogan, previously Turkey’s prime minister and now its president, had long opposed international sanctions aimed at curbing Tehran’s disputed nuclear program.
Turkey is struggling with spillover from the civil war in next-door Syria. On Monday, a suspected Islamic State suicide bomber killed at least 32 people in a Turkish border town.
While trade between Israel and Turkey has continued to expand in recent years, relations at a political level have deteriorated, especially over last year’s Gaza war.
In January, Erdogan criticized Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for “daring” to attend a solidarity march in Paris after the Charlie Hebdo killings. That prompted then Israeli foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, to label Erdogan an “anti-Semitic neighborhood bully”.
Gold, a longtime adviser to Netanyahu, held an unannounced meeting with his Turkish counterpart Feridun Sinirlioglu in Rome last month to explore ways of improving ties, Israeli officials said.
Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Alison Williams