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Netanyahu cites Syria as reason for restoring ties with Turkey

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By The Associated Press
Saturday, March 23, 2013, 6:03 p.m.

JERUSALEM — Concerns that Syria's stockpile of chemical weapons could reach militant groups bordering Israel and Turkey was the motivating factor in restoring relations with Ankara after a 3-year rift, Israel's prime minister said.

Benjamin Netanyahu wrote on his Facebook page on Saturday that Israel and Turkey, which border Syria, need to communicate with each other over the Syrian crisis.

“The fact that the crisis in Syria intensifies from moment to moment was the main consideration in my view,” Netanyahu wrote.

Netanyahu phoned his Turkish counterpart on Friday and apologized for a botched raid on a Gaza bound flotilla in 2010 that left eight Turks and one Turkish-American dead.

Turkey demanded an apology as a condition for restoring ties. Netanyahu until now had refused to apologize, saying Israeli soldiers acted in self-defense after being attacked by activists.

Turkey and Israel were once strong allies, but relations began to decline after Erdogan, whose party has roots in Turkey's Islamist movement, became prime minister in 2003. Erdogan has embarked on a campaign to make Turkey a regional powerhouse in an attempt to become the leading voice in the Muslim world, distanced from Israel.

Animosity increased after the flotilla incident, and ambassadors were later withdrawn.

Spillover from fighting in Syria's civil war reaches Israeli communities in the Golan Heights from time to time. Errant mortar shells and machine gun fire have caused damage, sparked fires and spread panic but led to no injuries so far.

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