President Obama went to the Middle East with hopes of stamping his signature on the stalled peace process, but comes home claiming another diplomatic victory as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologized to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for the Gaza flotilla incident.
According to senior administration officials, after Obama’s needling Netanyahu phoned Erdogan for the first time since 2009 and apologized for the Mavi Mara flotilla incident and acknowledged “operational mistakes.” Erdogan accepted the apology.
The officials said Netanyahu made the call from a trailer at the airport just before Obama took off. At some point, Obama hopped on the phone in the 30-minute conversation.
One official called a “first step” toward normalization of relations between the two countries and both added it had been a topic of talks with Obama this week.
“I welcome the call today between Prime Minister Netanyahu and Prime Minister Erdogan. The United States deeply values our close partnerships with both Turkey and Israel, and we attach great importance to the restoration of positive relations between them in order to advance regional peace and security,” Obama said in a statement.
“I am hopeful that today’s exchange between the two leaders will enable them to engage in deeper cooperation on this and a range of other challenges and opportunities,” he added.
Nine activists were killed, including eight Turks, and 10 Israeli commandos were wounded in the 2010 raid of the six ships intending to breach the blockade of the Gaza Strip.