Turkish envoy assumes Israel post as relations warm

Jan 11, 2023

Turkey’s ambassador to Israel, Sakir Ozkan Torunlar, presented his credentials to President Isaac Herzog on Wednesday, the latest move in rebuilding ties after years of crisis between the two countries.

Relations were frozen in 2010 after a deadly Israeli raid on the Turkish Mavi Marmara ship, part of a flotilla carrying humanitarian aid that was trying to breach a blockade on the Palestinian Gaza Strip.

“Today we complete another important step, reaching another milestone in the strengthening of our relations and deepening of the friendship between Turkey and Israel,” Herzog said following the ceremony.

Bilateral relations began to fray following an Israeli military operation in Gaza in 2008 and deteriorated sharply after the 2010 maritime incident that claimed the lives of 10 civilians.

A brief reconciliation from 2016 ended two years later when Turkey withdrew its ambassador and expelled Israel’s over the killing of Palestinians in Gaza.

Following months of talks including a visit by Herzog to Turkey last March, the two countries announced in August the full restoration of relations and the return of ambassadors.

Ties are now “on a very encouraging trajectory,” said Herzog, who also invited his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to visit Israel.

Last month, Israel’s new ambassador to Turkey, Irit Lillian, presented her credentials to Erdogan.

Wednesday’s ceremony came just weeks after Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu formed a new government, returning to office after his previous reign as prime minister from 2009 to 2021.

Despite past tensions between them, Erdogan congratulated Netanyahu on his victory in the November general election.

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But Ankara has already criticised Netanyahu’s new ruling coalition, slamming as “provocative” a visit to Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque compound by National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir this month.

The decision by the extreme-right minister to visit the sensitive site, which is known to Jews as the Temple Mount, drew broad international condemnation.

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