Turkish lawmakers have approved an agreement to enable reconciliation between Turkey and Israel after a six-year rupture over the killing by Israel of 10 Turks.
The deal, which had been submitted to the Turkish parliament for approval on Wednesday, was passed on Saturday. Reports did not specify how many votes were cast in favor or potentially against the deal.
Ankara and Tel Aviv’s then close relations soured after Israeli commandos attacked the Freedom Flotilla aid convoy in international waters in the Mediterranean Sea on May 31, 2010, killing nine Turkish citizens and injuring about 50 other people. A tenth Turkish national later succumbed to his injuries. The vessel was attempting to break the Israeli naval blockade of the Gaza Strip.
Ankara demanded an apology, which was not forthcoming only until recently, as well as compensation for the families of the victims of the Israeli raid.
The two sides gradually engaged in almost secret talks to mend relations, and came out announcing the reconciliation deal on June 27.
Turkish and Israeli officials have both defended the deal, under which a main Turkish condition for the normalization of ties remains unmet, namely Israel’s lifting of the blockade on the Gaza Strip.
But the Israeli regime is obliged to pay USD 20 million in compensation to the families of the Turkish activists killed in the Gaza aid vessel incident.
The agreement further allows Turkey to send aid for Palestinians via the port of Ashdod in the occupied territories rather than directly to Gaza.
Lawmaker Burhan Kuzu, with the Turkish ruling Justice and Development Party, said the rapprochement has been partly driven by the prospect of Ankara joining Tel Aviv in exploring gas in the Mediterranean Sea and helping the regime sell it to Europe.
“I don’t think there will be a problem during its (the deal’s) implementation,” he said.
“There are natural gas resources in the Mediterranean that they are pursuing and we want to be a part of it. The shortest and safest route to transport natural gas to Europe, is through Turkey,” he said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and some Israeli officials have likewise defended the accord, saying it will have a positive impact on the Israeli economy and invite lucrative Mediterranean gas deals for the regime.
The Gaza Strip has been under an Israeli siege since June 2007. The blockade has caused a decline in the standards of living as well as unprecedented levels of unemployment and unrelenting poverty.