By Humeyra Pamuk
ANKARA, April 10 (Reuters) - Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said on Wednesday it was too early to talk of energy deals with Israel despite signs of reconciliation between the two countries, but said Turkey was open to energy cooperation in the future.
U.S. President Barack Obama last month brokered a thaw between Turkey and Israel, whose relations were frozen after the 2010 killing by Israeli marines of nine Turks aboard a Gaza-bound aid ship.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologised to his Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan for the killings and pledged compensation to the bereaved, meeting a long-standing Turkish demand and taking a step towards normalising ties.
The tentative reconciliation could pave the way for joint energy projects between the two U.S. allies, and has raised hopes in particular of the possibility of Israeli natural gas being piped to energy-hungry Turkey.
'The reason for Israel's apology was not energy projects. But the consequence could be energy projects,' Yildiz told reporters at an energy conference in Ankara.
'We have said we are not closed to these in the future. But at this stage ... it is early to talk about energy projects.'
Yildiz also said Turkey's state oil company TPAO had applied for exploration rights off the coast of Lebanon.
'For the field offshore Lebanon, several firms have applied including TPAO. We're hoping to hear on the pre-qualification results soon and we hope TPAO will be one of them,' Yildiz said.
'TPAO will participate in the Lebanon (project).'
Dozens of companies have submitted pre-qualification bids to explore for oil and gas in Lebanon's offshore waters.
Names of the pre-qualified companies will be announced on April 18 and the government aims to agree its first exploration and production agreement by February next year.
(Writing by Nick Tattersall; Editing by Ayla Jean Yackley) Keywords: TURKEY ISRAEL/ENERGY
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