Turkey, Israel held secret talks to boost ties

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu laid out Turkey’s conditions for improved ties with Israel during a secretly held meeting with an Israeli Cabinet minister, his spokesman said Thursday.

ANKARA, Turkey — Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu laid out Turkey’s conditions for improved ties with Israel during a secretly held meeting with an Israeli Cabinet minister, his spokesman said Thursday.

Davutoglu met with Israel’s Industry Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer in Brussels on Wednesday in an attempt to mend rapidly deteriorating ties over the raid on Gaza-bound aid ships.

The meeting, which became public after it was reported by Israeli TV, was the first contact between Turkish and Israeli government officials since relations between the two former allies reached a new low over the deaths of eight Turks and a Turkish-American in the raid.

Few details have emerged about the meeting, but Foreign Ministry Spokesman Burak Ozugergin said that the two discussed “the latest state of relations.”

Davutoglu “once again relayed the steps that Israel needs to take relations further,” Ozugergin told The Associated Press.

Turkey demands that Israel apologize for the raid, offer compensation to the victims, agree to an international probe into the incident and end its blockade of Gaza.

Turkey withdrew its ambassador to protest the raid and is barring some military planes from using its airspace. Turkish officials have said the envoy will not return until Israel takes steps to meet the demands.

Israel insists commandos involved in the May 31 raid acted in self-defence after being attacked by pro-Palestinian activists and has launched its own probe into the incident.

The meeting caused a spat within Israel’s ruling coalition. Israel’s own foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, said he was not informed and blamed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for what he called a “serious blow to the trust” between them.

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