Turkey appoints envoy to Israel as relations warm

Turkey and Israel have been working to mend their ties after years of enmity, including talks on exporting natural gas from Israel to Europe via Turkey…reports Asian Lite News

Turkey on Thursday appointed Sakir Ozkan Torunlar as its ambassador to Israel as the two countries stepped up to normalize ties by mutually designating envoys.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan signed the decree to designate Torunlar as Turkey’s ambassador, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported.

Torunlar served as Turkey’s consul general to Jerusalem between 2010-2014.

In September, Israel named Irit Lillian, the current charge d’affairs of the Israeli embassy in Ankara, as its new ambassador to Turkey.

Turkey and Israel have been working to mend their ties after years of enmity, including talks on exporting natural gas from Israel to Europe via Turkey.

The relations between the two countries were strained in 2010 when a Turkish-led flotilla attempting to break Israel’s blockade on the Gaza Strip clashed with Israeli forces, leaving 10 Turks on board killed.

In 2018, Turkey expelled the Israeli ambassador after Israeli forces killed Palestinians during protests on the Gaza border against the opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem. 

In July,  Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke on the phone, expressing hope for improving relations between the two countries.

The two leaders agreed that “Israel-Turkey relations are of great importance for security, the economy, and stability in the Middle East,” hailing a new civil aviation deal signed last week between the two countries, Xinhua news agency reported, citing the statement.

Recently, Israel has sought to reset its ties with regional countries both Arab and non-Arab. It considers Turkey to be an important factor both regionally and in Gaza also, as Hamas has opened up an office in Istanbul and for the last 10 years it has been operating from Turkey, in addition Israeli authorities feel that closer ties with Turkey will allow it to efficiently conduct intelligence monitoring of Iran.

In addition, Israel feels that if it wants to sell its natural gas to Europe, which was found near its coast in 2010, then the most economically viable route will be through Turkey. It could be a win-win situation for both if they are able to thrash out any future plan for cutting off Russian gas supply to Europe, both diplomatically and financially in the long run.

During the hostile period with Turkey, Israel had come closer to both, Cyprus and Greece. This resulted in increased economic, security and people to people contacts between them. Both countries enjoyed influx of Israeli tourists, who abandoned the Turkey’s coasts. Israel also initiated military cooperation with them and has also been training Greek and Cypriot military forces.

Now Israel will have to balance the geostrategic and potential economic benefits of cooperation with Turkey with Jerusalem’s well-developed ties with Athens and Nicosia. Israeli President Herzog, who played a key role in the Israel-Turkey rapprochement, has given assurances to both Cyprus and Greece that Israel’s new found friendship with Turkey will have no bearing on its existing relationship with Cyprus and Greece. (with inputs from Asad Mirza)

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