Jerusalem: Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday apologised to Turkey for a deadly 2010 flotilla raid and announced a full resumption of diplomatic ties as well as compensation for the families of those killed, his office said.
Ties between Israel and Turkey spiralled in May 2010, when Israeli commandos staged a botched pre-dawn raid on the six-ship flotilla headed by the Mavi Marmara, in which nine Turkish nationals were killed.
The assault triggered an international outcry and a bitter diplomatic crisis between Israel and Turkey, with Ankara demanding a formal apology and compensation for the families of the victims.
Until now, Israel has refused, in part for fear that it could open the way for the prosecution of commandos who took part in the raid.
The breakthrough, which ends a nearly three-year bitter diplomatic rift, was engineered by US President Barack Obama at the tail end of a historic three-day visit to the Holy Land, the first of his presidency.
Speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One shortly after departing for Amman, a senior US official said the Israeli premier had apologised to his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a special phonecall from Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv.
“On behalf of Israelis he apologised for any deaths those operational mistakes might have caused,” the US official said.
“Prime Minister Erdogan accepted the apology on behalf of Turkey,” he added, saying Obama had also spoken with the Turkish leader.
Israel and Turkey both confirmed the apology, with Netanyahu’s office announcing a resumption of full diplomatic ties between the former close allies.
A source close to the Turkish government also confirmed the breakthrough. “Apologies have indeed been offered,” he told AFP.