Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu phoned Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan on Friday to apologize for a 2010 Israeli commando raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla that killed several Turkish activists, the Israeli and Turkish governments confirmed. Netanyahu made the call during an airport meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama before Obama departed Israel after his first visit to the Jewish state since taking office in 2009.
He apologized for what happened and acknowledged “operational mistakes,” and Erdogan accepted the apology for the raid on the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara flotilla ship, a vessel transporting aid to Gazans and intent on breaking an Israeli sea blockade.
Eight Turks and an American of Turkish origin were killed in the raid.
The once-close nations, who’ve had a falling out over Israel’s policies and actions in the Palestinian territory of Gaza, also decided to normalize their fractured diplomatic ties, agreeing to return ambassadors to their posts.
The development is important to the United States, an ally to both Israel and Turkey, a Muslim NATO member.
“The prime minister made it clear that the tragic results regarding the Mavi Marmara were unintentional and that Israel expresses regret over injuries and loss of life,” the Israeli government said.
“In light of the Israeli investigation into the incident, which pointed out several operational errors, Prime Minister Netanyahu apologized to the Turkish people for any errors that could have led to loss of life and agreed to complete the agreement on compensation.”
Asked to confirm whether Netanyahu called and apologized and offered compensation, a senior Turkish official told CNN: “Yes.”
The incident on the Mediterranean intensified the sharp emotions over Gaza.
Israel long has said it is concerned about the smuggling of arms to Gaza militants intent on attacking the Jewish state. Gaza is controlled by the anti-Israel Hamas militant group, regarded as a terrorist organization by the United States and Israel.
But activists say Israel’s embargo of goods into Gaza from land and sea punishes civilians in the tiny and densely populated strip of land along the Mediterranean coast.
Israel has said any organization or state that wants to give humanitarian aid to Gaza can do so in coordination with Israeli authorities via existing land crossings into the Palestinian territory.
Netanyahu also told Erdogan that he had good talks with Obama on the issue of regional cooperation and the importance of Israeli-Turkish relations.
“The prime minister expressed regret over the deterioration in bilateral relations and noted his commitment to working out the disagreements in order to advance peace and regional stability,” the Israeli government said.
Netanyahu also noted that Israel has already lifted some restrictions on the movement of civilians and goods to all Palestinian territories, including Gaza, and said that “this will continue as long as the quiet is maintained.”