Israel’s energy minister has traveled to Turkey to hold talks with the country’s officials, the first such trip since the two sides normalized ties after some six years of diplomatic tensions.
On Thursday, Yuval Steinitz arrived in the Turkish city of Istanbul, where he sat down for talks with Turkish Energy Minister Berat Albayrak, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s son-in-law.
After the talks, Steinitz said Israel and Turkey have agreed to examine the possibility of constructing a pipeline that would carry natural gas from the Israeli-occupied territories to Turkey and onward to European markets.
He also said while Israel was building regional energy cooperation links with Jordan, Egypt, Cyprus and Greece, “the Turkish option is very important.”
The Israeli minister added that the Tel Aviv regime welcomes the Turkish participation in the exploration of new gas fields, describing his visit as “a token of the normalization process that just started” between the two sides.
Steinitz, who attended an energy congress in Istanbul, is the most senior Israeli official to visit Turkey since Ankara and Tel Aviv agreed this summer to end six years of acrimony over an Israeli on a Gaza-bound Turkish aid ship in 2010.
Ankara and Tel Aviv’s once close relations soured after Israeli commandos raided the Gaza Strip-bound Turkish-flagged Freedom Flotilla in international waters of the Mediterranean 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, however, announced a reconciliation agreement on June 27, after several rounds of negotiations. Later, Ankara and Tel Aviv began the procedure of exchanging ambassadors.
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.
The Israeli regime has now paid Turkey $20 million (18 million euros) in compensation to the families of the Turkish activists killed in the Gaza aid vessel incident.