(TEL AVIV, Israel) — Sitting in a trailer parked near Air Force One on the tarmac in Tel Aviv, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu got on the phone to apologize to Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for Israeli commandoes storming a protest ship off Gaza and killing nine unarmed protestors three years ago. President Obama was there as well, listening in, and hopped on the call briefly.
“We believe that the call today is an important step towards the normalization of that relationship,” a senior Obama administration official told reporters traveling with the president.
The subject had been a topic of discussion between Obama and Netanyahu over the past several days.
“It was a call from Prime Minister Netanyahu to Prime Minister Erdogan,” the official stressed, “but given the President’s relationship with both of them, he felt it was important to support that effort.”
Asked if Obama brokered the conversation, the official explained “the President has been making this point to both leaders for going on a couple years now.”
“I think it’s well known by both Turkey and Israel the importance we place on seeing these two close friends of ours have normalized relations,” he said.
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Chris Williams and Jason Hanna, CNN