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Sources: Israel, Turkey in first defense deal since ties frozen

Feb. 19, 2013 6:21 P.M. (Updated: Feb. 20, 2013 9:43 P.M.)
By: Gulsen Solaker
ANKARA (Reuters) -- An Israeli firm has supplied Turkey with military equipment in the first such reported deal since the two nations froze ties over the 2010 killing of nine Turks aboard a Gaza-bound aid ship, Turkish government sources said on Monday.

Israeli defense firm Elta delivered to Turkey $100 million of electronic equipment last week for four Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft, the sources said, but rebuffed suggestions the deal was a sign of improving ties with Tel Aviv.

"Turkey bought the equipment from Boeing and the Israeli company is just a sub-contractor of Boeing, which means we are in direct relationship only with Boeing and not with Israel," a foreign ministry official told Reuters, asking not to be named.

Israel's Defense Ministry declined to comment, but an Israeli defense industry source confirmed the deal.

Relations between Israel and what was once its only Muslim ally crumbled after Israeli marines stormed the Mavi Marmara aid ship in May 2010 to enforce a naval blockade of the Gaza Strip and killed nine Turkish activists on board.

Turkey expelled Israel's ambassador and froze military cooperation after a UN report into the incident, released in September 2011, largely exonerated Israel.

That report was meant to foster a thaw between the countries but ultimately deepened the rift when it concluded Israel had used unreasonable force but that the blockade on Gaza was legal.

Israel and NATO member Turkey, which both border Syria, once shared intelligence information and conducted joint military exercises, cooperation which has since been cancelled.

The Israeli defense industry source said Israel had initially not wanted the Elta deal to go through but had relented in 2011 following requests by Boeing.

The rift has continued despite US efforts to encourage a rapprochement between the two regional powers, whose cooperation it needs to address changes sweeping the Middle East.

Turkey has demanded a formal apology, compensation for victims and the families of the dead and for the Gaza blockade to be lifted.

Israel has voiced "regret", short of the full apology demanded, and has offered to pay into what it called a "humanitarian fund" through which casualties and relatives could be compensated.
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