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Turkey, Israel to exchange envoys after normalization deal

Turkey and Israel will exchange ambassadors after reaching a deal to normalise ties after a six-year diplomatic rift, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said on Monday.

Yildirim said the deal, which would be signed on Tuesday, ends a row over an Israeli raid on an aid flotilla that killed 10 Turkish pro-Palestinian activists who tried to sail to the blockaded Gaza Strip in 2010.

In the aftermath of the attack, Turkey demanded an official apology from Israel, families of the victims be compensated and Israel’s blockade on Gaza be lifted.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologized in 2013 to Turkey’s then-premier and now president Recep Tayyip Erdogan for the attack.

Yildirim noted that Israel agreed to pay out 20 million U.S. dollars in compensation to the bereaved and injured in the raid.

Under the deal, Turkey will deliver humanitarian aid and other non-military products to Gaza with a first shipment of 10,000 tons of supplies being sent next Friday, he said.

When asked about the prospects for energy relations, Yildirim said that the political and diplomatic ties would be the priority in implementing the agreement.

Meanwhile, the Israeli prime minister, who is in Rome for meetings with U.S. State Secretary John Kerry and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, said the deal has “strategic importance” for both countries.

He noted the economic importance of normalizing ties with Turkey and said it also offers stability.

“The Middle East is in turmoil. My policy is to create islands of stability with our close neighbors,” he said.

However, he told a press conference in Rome that an Israeli naval blockade of Gaza will remain in force, but added that humanitarian aid could continue to reach Gaza through Israeli ports.

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