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Israel, Turkey Agree To Restore Ties

U.S. President Barack Obama (left) helped arrange the call between the two key U.S. regional allies shortly before leaving Israel.
Israel and Turkey have agreed to mend their badly damaged ties.
The diplomatic breakthrough came after the Israeli prime minister in a telephone call with his Turkish counterpart apologized for the deaths of nine Turkish activists in a 2010 Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound international aid flotilla.
U.S. President Barack Obama helped arrange the call shortly before ending his first visit to Israel as president on March 22.
Both Israel and Turkey are key U.S. regional allies. Obama in a statement welcomed the call and stressed the need to restore good relations "in order to advance regional peace and security."

At a press conference in the Jordanian capital Amman later on March 22, Obama said the "timing" had been right for a diplomatic breakthrough.

"The last two years I have spoken to both [Israeli] Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu and [Turkish] Prime Minister [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan about why this rupture has to be mended, that they don't have to agree on everything in order for them to come together around a whole range of common interest and common concerns," Obama said.
U.S. officials traveling with Obama said Netanyahu had called Erdogan from a runway trailer at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport.
The nine Turkish activists were killed when Israeli marines boarded their boat, the "Mavi Marmara," as it was leading the six-ship aid flotilla trying to breach Israel's naval blockade of the Islamist Hamas-run Gaza Strip.
Turkey withdrew its ambassador from Israel and froze military cooperation after the incident.
A statement from Netanyahu's office quoted the prime minister as saying the deaths were unintentional.
It said Netanyahu agreed to pay compensation to the families of those killed.
The Israeli statement also announced a full resumption of diplomatic ties.
It said Erodgan had accepted the apology "in the name of the Turkish people."
Israel has previously expressed regret for the deaths, but rejected Turkey's demand for an apology saying that would be tantamount to admitting moral culpability and would open the way for lawsuits against its troops.
Analysts say the mending of relations between Israel and Turkey could help contain a possible spillover of violence from Syria.
It could also ease Israel's diplomatic isolation in the Middle East as it faces challenges posed by Iran's nuclear program.

Based on reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP
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