On the sideliners of a nuclear security summit in Washington in March, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan held a private meeting with Israel’s energy minister, Yuval Steinitz. It was the highest level contact between Israel and Turkey since diplomatic relations broke down six years ago after Israeli forces raided a Turkish ship bound for Gaza, killing 10 Turkish activists.
The meeting, which lasted 20 to 30 minutes and whose details have not been previously disclosed, discussed the war in Syria, Iran’s presence there, terrorism – and natural gas.
That last item is a key driver of efforts to forge a reproach between Israel and Turkey, at stake are reserves of natural gas worth hundreds of billions of dollars under the waters of Israel and Cyprus. To exploit them Israel will likely require the cooperation of Turkey.
In an interview at his office in Jerusalem, Steinitz confirmed the Washington meeting saying, “It was in a very good atmosphere, I don’t want to say more than that … I’m a great proponent of this effort to resume diplomatic relations with Turkey.”
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that “there have been positive noises from Turkey”, adding that Ankara was “one or two meetings away from normalizing ties with Israel”.
However, he did not put a timeframe on the process.