Israel, Turkey to conduct first political discussions since rapprochement

Israel, Turkey to conduct first political discussions since rapprochement

Israel, Turkey to conduct first political discussions since rapprochement

Turkish ambassador to Israel Kemal Ökem hands his diplomatic credentials to Israeli President Reuven Rivlin at Rivlin's official residence in Jerusalem December 12, 2016. AFP photo

Turkey and Israel will hold their first political consultations for six years on Feb. 1 following a normalization in ties thanks to a rapprochement deal signed on June 28, 2016.

A visit by Israeli Foreign Ministry Director General Yuval Rotem to Turkey between Jan. 31 and Feb. 2 will include talks in Ankara with his Turkish counterpart, a meeting with senior officials and meetings with Israeli embassy and consular staff in Ankara and Istanbul, according to a statement by the Israeli ministry’s spokesperson. He will also meet the heads of Turkish Jewish communities and Istanbul Gov. Vasip Şahin, said the statement. 

“The director general’s visit is intended to enhance the bilateral relations between the two countries and to strengthen diplomatic, economic, cultural and other types of cooperation. The convening of a diplomatic dialogue sends a positive message of mutual commitment to deepen the relations between the two states. Such a dialogue, following six challenging years, will enable serious discussion of the considerable changes that have taken place in the region, with the aim of establishing a basis for increased regional stability,” read the statement.

In his meetings with Şahin and Jewish community leaders, Rotem will stress “Israel’s solidarity with the community and with Turkey, in light of the surge of horrific terrorist attacks in Turkey, and will express Israel’s great appreciation of Turkey’s assistance in cases in which Israelis were hurt,” said the statement. 

Turkish-Israeli relations came to breaking point after Israeli marines stormed the Mavi Marmara flotilla, which was aiming to break a naval blockade on the Hamas-run Gaza Strip in May 2010, killing 10 Turkish activists on board. 

After six years of strained ties, Israel apologized for the Mavi Marmara raid, paying out $20 million to the bereaved and injured as part of the rapprochement deal signed between the two countries on June 28, 2016.

In December 2016, the countries also exchanged ambassadors for the first time, with Eitan Na’eh taking up his post in Ankara for Israel and Kemal Ökem doing likewise for Turkey in Tel Aviv.