Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Director-General Yuval Rotem is set to lead a delegation of cross-governmental agencies to meet with Turkish officials for a three day visit amidst new efforts to rekindle the partnership between the two countries. The upcoming trip will mark the first set of bilateral talks in over six years.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry stated: “The political dialogue sends a positive message on the commitment of both sides to deepen the relationship between the two countries”. It added that the talks will “allow for comprehensive discussion after six years of challenges”.
Jerusalem and Ankara were once close regional allies, however ties were cut following the Mavi Marmara raid that saw a deadly confrontation between Israeli commandos and Turkish activists seeking to breach Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip, in May 2010.
In June 2016, a reconciliation deal saw the restoration of full ambassador-level relations after they were dramatically downgraded. Israel’s then-Deputy Ambassador to the UK, Eitan Na’eh, was appointed as the new Ambassador to Turkey by the Israeli Foreign Ministry.
As part of the deal, Israel agreed to set up a compensation fund for the nine Mavi Marmara victims’ families, on the understanding that the Turkish parliament blocks all legal claims against Israeli soldiers involved in the incident. It will also allow Turkey to deliver humanitarian aid and non-military supplies to Gaza while making infrastructure investments.
In continued efforts to end the diplomatic freeze, Turkey’s new Ambassador to Israel, Kemal Okem, declared Israel a “partner and friend” in December last year.
Ambassador Okem stated: “This is a new beginning in our bilateral relations and in our joint efforts…Our region offers more than its share of challenges but also of big opportunities. As before, Turkey and Israel will work together to make sure that these opportunities are fully utilised”.