Turkish envoy to Israel vows to improve ties
AFP photoThe Turkish ambassador to Israel Kemal Ökem has vowed to improve ties with his host country in his first interview with local media.
Speaking hours after Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman announced the approval of 2,500 new housing units in the West Bank, Ökem told i24NEWS in an interview on Jan. 24, that Turkey supports “both sides in the efforts toward peace” but acts according to international law regarding the settlements.
“We have a strong will to enhance dialogue,” Ökem said, saying that there will be visits on both sides and that Turkey’s tourism minister plans to visit Israel next month.
Ökem said the director-general of Israeli Foreign Ministry would travel to Ankara by the end of the month to meet his counterpart in an effort to boost relations.
“In every field we can think of, we will progress,” Ökem said.
Ökem also said that his country’s position on Israeli settlements was clear; that they are illegal and endanger the prospects for peace, according to the report.
“We will do anything possible to bring peace, but that depends on the will of both sides,” he asserted. Ökem emphasized that “we must keep [prospects for peace] alive.”
Israel announced plans on Tuesday for 2,500 more settlement homes in the occupied West Bank, the second such declaration since U.S. President Donald Trump took office signalling he could be more accommodating toward such projects than his predecessor.
A statement from the Israeli Defense Ministry, which administers lands Israel captured in a 1967 war, announced plans on Jan. 24 for 2,500 more settlement homes in the occupied West Bank, the second such declaration since U.S. President Donald Trump took office signaling he could be more accommodating toward such projects than his predecessor.
It said the decision was meant to fulfil demand for new housing “to maintain regular daily life.”
Most of the construction, it said, would be in existing settlement blocs that Israel intends to keep under any future peace agreement with the Palestinians. However, a breakdown provided by the prime minister’s office showed large portions of the planned homes would be outside existing blocs.
Turkey condemned the Israeli government’s approval of the construction of 2,500 additional units in “illegal settlements on the Palestinian territories it keeps under occupation,” a written statement by the Foreign Ministry said Jan. 25.
“We call on Israel to quit insisting on pursuing this problematic approach that destroys the vision for the two state solution by disregarding international law and human rights,” read the statement.