Turkey-Israel should enhance intelligence sharing against terrorism, says Israeli envoy

Turkey-Israel should enhance intelligence sharing against terrorism, says Israeli envoy

Verda Özer – ISTANBUL
Turkey-Israel should enhance intelligence sharing against terrorism, says Israeli envoy Turkey and Israel must begin to share intelligence to defeat terrorism in the region, Israel’s envoy in Istanbul has said.

“Ultimately, we cannot escape enhancing intelligence sharing, sharing information and even cooperating on an operational basis to eliminate this threat [jihadist terror organizations],” Shai Cohen, Israel’s consul general to Istanbul, said May 9. 

“Yes, we see eye to eye with Turkey [only] on eliminating jihadist extremist organizations particularly in Syria, but in the region in general. There is a lot to cooperate on that,” the consul general added. 

Responding to a question as to whether launching a joint operation was on the table, Cohen said it was not being discussed at present.

“But it’s very well understood by all authorities that this is a main issue we should discuss with Turkey and see how we can cooperate in the future,” he said, adding that it might not happen immediately. “It’s a very delicate issue. But it’s something very important for both countries,” he said. 

Commenting on whether cooperation would occur on Turkey’s fight against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Cohen said the PKK “is a Turkish confrontation, a Turkish issue.”

“We don’t intervene in Turkish decisions or policy vis-à-vis the Kurdish problem. It’s a Turkish thing to be concluded by Turkey,” Cohen said. 

Waiting for new government in Ankara 

Stating that normalizing the difficult relations between Turkey and Israel would need to wait until after the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) extraordinary convention on May 22, when a new head of the party will be elected after Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu formally abandons his post.

“The negotiations will go on. We will also see from May 22 as to which prime minister and which foreign minister there will be in the new Turkish government and who will keep on managing these negotiations,” said Cohen. 

Turkish and Israeli officials initiated diplomatic talks to mend the strained ties between the two countries in 2015. NATO member Turkey was a key regional ally of Israel until the two cut ties in 2010 after Israeli commandos staged a deadly operation on a Turkish aid ship bound for Gaza, killing 10 Turkish activists.

“First of all, we are very close [to reaching a final deal]. There has been an important advancement in the last few months through different rounds of negotiations between representatives of both governments in different places in the region and the world,” Cohen said. “It’s a question of another round or two to conclude.”

Cohen also said Turkey should reconsider its relations with Hamas, which Israel sees as its worst enemy.

“Hamas is a terrorist organization. It’s our worst enemy and you have to reconsider your relations with Hamas,” he said.