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Israel, Turkey to restore diplomacy

| Friday, March 22, 2013, 9:18 p.m.
President Barack Obama is greeted by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as Israeli President Shimon Peres watches at left, as Obama prepares to depart from Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Friday, March 22.

JERUSALEM — Israel and Turkey agreed to restore full diplomatic relations on Friday because Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologized in a phone call for a deadly naval raid against a Gaza-bound international flotilla.

Joint interests between the two countries, including fears that the Syrian civil war could spill over their respective borders, and some cajoling by President Obama made the time ripe to repair the frayed relations after nearly three years of acrimony over the deaths.

It was a surprising turnaround for Netanyahu, who had long rejected calls to apologize.

He announced the breakthrough after a 20-minute phone conversation with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Obama helped broker the fence-mending while visiting Israel, but the sides had been reaching out to each other before.

“They agreed to restore normalization between Israel and Turkey, including the dispatch of ambassadors and the cancellation of legal steps against Israeli soldiers,” a statement from Netanyahu's office said. Netanyahu “regretted the recent deterioration of relations between Israel and Turkey and expressed his commitment to overcoming their differences in order to advance peace and stability in the region,” it said.

The statement stressed that the bloodshed was not intentional and suggested that relatives of those killed would get compensation.

Erdogan's office said: “Our prime minister accepted the apology in the name of the Turkish people.”

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