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Israeli, Turkish Ministers Hold Talks in Bid to Repair Ties

A high-ranking Israeli envoy has met with Turkey's foreign minister in a bid to improve relations that had rapidly deteriorated following Israel's deadly raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla in May.

Israeli and Turkish media reported Wednesday that Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, Israel's industry and trade minister, met Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in Brussels, Belgium.

The meeting was meant to be secret, but became public when it was reported Wednesday evening by Israel's Channel 2 TV. The talks were apparently aimed at repairing ties following the Israeli raid, which killed eight Turkish activists and one Turkish-American.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office Wednesday confirmed Turkish officials had approached Ben-Eliezer requesting an "informal discussion" which the prime minister saw no reason to block. There was no immediate comment from the Turkish government.

The May 31 raid dealt a serious blow to Turkey's already strained ties with the Jewish state.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called for Israel to apologize and compensate the victims' families. He has also urged a lifting of the Israeli blockade of Gaza that prompted the flotilla voyage.

Israel says the deaths were the result of its forces acting in self-defense. Last week, Israeli officials eased the blockade of Gaza, imposed after the militant Palestinian group Hamas seized control there in 2007.

Reports of the secret meeting elicited an angry response from Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who said he had not been informed of the talks. Lieberman blamed Mr. Netanyahu for what he called a "serious blow to the trust" between them.

The foreign minister's right-wing views have made him largely unpopular with many of Israel's allies and he is widely seen to have been sidelined internationally by Mr. Netanyahu.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.