An Israeli delegation opened negotiations with Turkish officials in Istanbul Monday, April 22, on the amount of compensation to be paid out to the families of the nine Turks who died in a clash of arms with Israeli naval commandoes in May 2010, when their ship, the Mavi Marmara, was stopped from completing its mission to break Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip.
The first session was brief. Criteria for determining the amounts of the payouts were settled in less than an hour. A joint Israeli-Turkish group will calculate the sums and refer them back to the delegations for approval. The two delegations were then free to get down to the brass tacks of the real issues of interest to them both.
A day earlier, US Secretary of State John Kerry had urged Turkey to hurry up and restore its relations with Israel because the security interests they share with the United States in the Middle East are pressing. The turbulence in Syria and Iran’s drive for a nuclear bomb posed extreme perils to all three.
The delegations responded, DEBKA-Net-Weekly's intelligence sources say, with an intense discussion of ways to further their military and intelligence cooperation for the common benefit.
Before setting off for home, the Israeli delegation and Turkish hosts broke through to concurrence on three issues:
Turkey and Israel to pool Syrian intelligence
1. Turkey agreed to lift its veto on Israel’s participation in NATO military exercises.
The ban was imposed after the Mavi Marmara episode. By lifting it, Ankara took the first step toward the phased resumption of its army’s old, longstanding military cooperation with Israel’s Defense Forces, the IDF.
The London Sunday Times reported on April 21 that Turkey and Israel were negotiating terms for the Israeli Air Force to use a Turkish air base near Ankara in the event of a strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities.
2. Turkey and Israel have agreed to set up a joint mechanism for sharing intelligence on the Syrian conflict.
According to DEBKA-Net-Weekly, Turkey and Israel have the best Syrian intelligence in the business, but they are different in content and tradecraft and gathered from disparate sources.
The Turks use Syrian rebels and Lebanese sources operating in Syria. They don’t command the electronic resources which Israel possesses. The two agencies also maintain contact with different rebel militias.
It was therefore agreed that Ankara and Jerusalem would profit from pooling their incoming intelligence data at the highest level – i.e., between Mossad chief Tamir Pardo and Turkish MIT intelligence chief Hakan Fidan.
A Turkish-Israeli mechanism for coordination on Kurdistan
3. Another new Turkish-Israeli mechanism will coordinate Turkish and Israeli activities regarding the self-governing Kurdish Republic of Iraq, and its president, Masoud Barzani.
According to our intelligence sources, this is essentially a renewal of a practice they pursued before the 2010 breakdown of relations between Ankara and Jerusalem, whereby both agreed to refrain from actions in relation to Kurdistan that might be detrimental to the other’s strategic, military of intelligence interests.
Iraqi Kurdistan is a major player in Turkey's regional game plans. President Barzani has been extremely helpful to Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's bid to bury the hatchet between his government and the outlawed PKK (Kurdish Workers Party).
The Kurdish leader, for his party, relies on Turkey’s military umbrella to protect the KRG from the hostile Baghdad government headed by the Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
Both Irbil and Ankara share in interest in the continued pumping of oil from the Kirkuk fields.
Israel’s role has focused on training and supplying arms to the independent Kurdish army, the Peshmerga, as well as building and assisting Kurdish intelligence organizations.