Turkish ambassador to Israel submits credentials in Tel Aviv
Turkey’s new ambassador to Israel, Kemal Ökem, submitted his credentials to Israeli President Reuven Rivlin on Dec. 12, marking the inauguration of a Turkish envoy to the country for the first time in six years.
“I present to you, with great appreciation, my letter of appointment as the Turkish ambassador to Israel,” Ökem, who was accompanied at the ceremony by his wife and two children, told Rivlin, Israeli media reported.
Responding to Ökem’s statement, Rivlin said, “I am honored to accept him. Welcome to Israel.”
“The friendship between our countries has a rich history and I hope that the reconciliation and the new appointments will turn a new leaf and secure our relations,” he added.
A former foreign affairs adviser at the Turkish Prime Ministry, Ökem was informed about his new post on Nov. 15, the same day Israel’s Foreign Ministry nominated Eithan Na’eh as its new ambassador to Turkey.
Ökem had served as deputy director of the Directorate General of the Middle East and consultant to the foreign minister. He worked at Turkey’s embassies in London and Riyadh and was the permanent representative for NATO. He is an expert on international security and the Middle East.
The mutual exchange of ambassadors between Turkey and Israel comes as part of a normalization deal following the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident.
Diplomatic ties between the two countries were disrupted in May 2010 when Israeli commandos killed 10 Turkish activists on the Mavi Marmara, a ship that had been bound to break the blockade on Gaza.
In the aftermath of the attack, Ankara demanded an official apology from Israel, compensation for the families of those killed and the lifting of Israel’s Gaza blockade.
In 2013, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu voiced regret over the incident to Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who was Turkey’s prime minister at the time.
In addition to compensation, Israel agreed to Turkey’s humanitarian presence in the Gaza Strip. For its part, Turkey dropped all legal cases filed against the Israeli commandoes responsible for the Mavi Marmara raid.
On Aug. 20, Turkey’s parliament approved a deal involving Tel Aviv paying $20 million to the families of the victims, a sum that was paid on Sept. 30.