In a phone call today with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologized to Turkey over the 2010 Israeli raid of a flotilla that left nine people dead. The flotilla was attempting to break an Israeli naval blockade of Gaza, when it was intercepted by Israel.
"PM Netanyahu made it clear that the tragic Consequences of the Mavi Marmara flotilla were not intended & that Israel is sorry for loss of life," Ofir Gendelman, the prime minister's spokesman said on Twitter. "PM Netanyahu apologized to the Turkish ppl for any mistake that could have led to loss of life, agreed to complete the compensation agreement."
This is a tremendous diplomatic breakthrough. As we've reported, back in September of 2011, Erdogran said the raid in international waters was "cause for war." Israel had refused to apologize since the incident.
In September of 2011, a United Nations panel found Israel's naval blockade of Gaza was legal but that the raid was "excessive and unreasonable."
According to a senior White House official, Erdogan accepted the apology. Another senior administration official said this was a "first step" toward normalization of relations between the two countries.
The phone call between Netanyahu and Erdogan took place in a trailer at the Tel-Aviv airport where President Obama was taking off for Amman. The senior administration official said at one point Obama jumped in on the call.
"Ankara expelled Israel's ambassador and froze military cooperation after a UN report into the incident, released in September 2011, largely exonerated the Jewish state.
"Israel has voiced 'regret', short of the full apology demanded, and has offered to pay into what it called a 'humanitarian fund' through which casualties and relatives could be compensated.
"An improvement in Israel-Turkey ties would help regional coordination to contain spillover from the Syrian civil war."
Update at 11:58 p.m. ET. Full Statement:
Gendelman has now posted a full statement on the phone call between Netanyahu and Erdogan.
"Prime Minister Netanyahu also noted that Israel has already lifted several restrictions on the movement of civilians and goods to all of the Palestinian territories, including Gaza, and added that this will continue as long as the quiet is maintained," the statement read. "The two leaders agreed to continue to work on improving the humanitarian situation in the Palestinian territories."