Turkey, Israel to consider building gas pipeline

ISTANBUL – Israel and Turkey will consider building a pipeline that would carry Israeli natural gas to Turkey and onward to European markets, Israel’s energy minister said Thursday, during a first visit by an Israeli minister since the countries ended a six-year rift this summer.

Yuval Steinitz told reporters after talks with his Turkish counterpart, Berat Albayrak, that the two sides also discussed the issue of Turkey supplying electricity and other forms of energy to the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank.

“Israel is welcoming any involvement of Turkey in improving the lives of ordinary people in Gaza,” Steinitz said. “We will do our best in order to enable this.”

Turkey and Israel reached an agreement in June to normalize ties and end acrimony caused by an Israeli naval raid on a Turkish aid ship trying to breach Israel’s blockade of Gaza in 2010. Ten Turkish activists were killed in the raid.

Under the reconciliation deal, Israel agreed to compensate the families of the victims while Turkey agreed not to hold Israeli nationals criminally liable for the incident.

Steinitz said the two countries “agreed to establish immediately a dialogue to examine the possibility and the feasibility” of the natural gas pipeline project. He said Israel was considering other pipeline projects but said the “Turkish option” was an “important” one.

The Israeli minister said his country would also welcome the participation of Turkish businesses in the exploration of future gas fields.

Steinitz added that he was a strong proponent of the normalization of ties between the two countries who once were close allies, saying improved relations would benefit both the Turkish and Israeli people.