Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel on Friday apologized in a personal phone call to Turkeys prime minister for a deadly commando raid on a Turkish ship in 2010,in a sudden step toward reconciliation between the two countries that was partly brokered by President Obama during his visit to Israel this week,according to Israeli,Turkish and American officials.
In the call,Netanyahu expressed regret for the raid,which took place as Israeli troops were enforcing an aid embargo on Gaza,and offered compensation,Turkish and Israeli officials said. After years of holding out for a public apology for the deaths,Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan accepted Israels gesture in the phone call. At one point,Obama,just before leaving for Jordan,got on the phone with both leaders as they spoke,one senior American official said.
In a statement,Obama welcomed the call,saying,the United States deeply values our relationships with both Turkey and Israel,and we attach great importance to the restoration of positive relations between them,in order to advance regional peace and security.
Israel and Turkey had cultivated close ties over many years,but the acrimony over the raid,which resulted in nine deaths,created a stubborn hurdle. Recently,Erdogan drew harsh criticism for saying Zionism was a crime against humanity.
Discussing the phone call,a senior Turkish government officials said: The Israeli prime minister,in a phone call that lasted 10 minutes,apologized to the Turkish nation for all operational mistakes,evident in an investigation,that led to human losses,and agreed to offer compensation.
Addressing the Gaza embargo that led to the tensions,a statement from Netanyahus office noted that Israel had also already removed a number of restrictions on the movement of people and goods to all the Palestinian territories,including Gaza,and that the openness would continue as long as quiet prevails. The two leaders agreed to continue to work to improve the humanitarian situation in the Palestinian territories.
On Friday evening,Obama landed in Jordan,where he is likely to confront pressure to help that financially struggling country cope with a desperate tide of refugees fleeing the civil war in Syria.
Obama is scheduled to hold talks with King Abdullah of Jordan later on Friday.
Diplomacy aside,Obama spent his last day in Israel making pilgrimages to symbols of the Holocaust,modern Zionism,the Middle East peace process,and Christianity. In coming here,Obama has traded symbolism for a still-unfolding crisis in Syria.