"Israel is in need of a country like Turkey in the region. And we too must accept that we need Israel. This is a reality in the region," the Turkish president said on Saturday.
Erdogan added that normalization of ties between Turkey and Israel would take place “if mutual steps are implemented based on sincerity.”
The Turkish president made the remarks as he was speaking to reporters during his flight back from Saudi Arabia, where he met with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud.
Relations between the two sides took a nose dive in May 2010 after Israeli forces stormed the Turkish aid ship Mavi Marmara, as it was on its way to deliver aid to Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip, killing several activists.
Following the incident, ambassadors were withdrawn and Erdogan said Israel had to formally apologize over the killings, pay compensation for the victims, and lift the Gaza blockade in order for ties to be normalized.
Israel has apologized for the incident and negotiations are still under way for compensation but the blockade on Gaza remains in place.
On December 26, the Turkish daily, Today’s Zaman, citing unnamed sources, said Ankara was looking forward to purchasing military hardware such as advanced unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and reconnaissance and surveillance systems from Tel Aviv, hinting at the possible resumption of military ties between the two sides.
Israel and Turkey recently reached a preliminary agreement to normalize ties following the 2010 incident, unnamed officials from Tel Aviv and Ankara said last month.
The deal was reached during a secret meeting in Switzerland between Yossi Cohen, the incoming head of Israel’s spy agency, Mossad, Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu’s point-man for Turkish reconciliation Joseph Ciechanover and Turkish Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioglu.
Under the deal, Israel should compensate the victims of the raid. Ankara and Tel Aviv would also exchange envoys and hold talks on the restart of gas exports to Turkey.