In further sign of warming ties, Turkish energy officials headed to Jerusalem
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In further sign of warming ties, Turkish energy officials headed to Jerusalem

Delegation to discuss building underwater gas pipeline from Israel to Turkey, will head to Gaza to study ways to ease electricity shortage

Illustrative photo of Israeli natural gas rigs in the Mediterranean Sea, September 2, 2015. (Flash90)
Illustrative photo of Israeli natural gas rigs in the Mediterranean Sea, September 2, 2015. (Flash90)

In yet another sign of the burgeoning diplomatic detente between Israel and Turkey, a high-level delegation of Turkish energy officials will visit Israel Sunday.

The group is being led by the director of Ankara’s Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources, according to Israel Radio.

The delegation is slated to meet Israeli Energy Ministry officials, as well as representatives of Delek Group and Noble Energy, the two main members of a concern developing Israel’s massive natural gas fields in the Mediterranean. One key issue on the agenda, according to reports: an initiative to lay an underwater gas pipeline between Israel and energy hub Turkey.

The delegation will also visit the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, blockaded by Israel and Egypt, which is experiencing a severe electricity shortage, in a bid to find ways to ease the energy crisis.

The visit follows a joint announcement by Jerusalem and Ankara on February 1 that indicated such visits would now be the norm as relations warm between the two countries.

In the Wednesday statement, which followed the first formal meeting between senior Israeli and Turkish officials in nearly seven years, the governments announced Turkey would send two ministers to Israel in the near future in a bid to boost bilateral cooperation.

A meeting between Israeli and Turkish diplomats in Ankara, Turkey on February 1, 2017. (Courtesy Yuval Rotem)
A meeting between Israeli and Turkish diplomats in Ankara, Turkey on February 1, 2017. (Courtesy Yuval Rotem)

Nabi Avci, Turkey’s minister of culture and tourism, will begin his first official visit on Monday, while the energy officials are still in the country.

The Turkish-Israeli political consultations were headed by Israeli Foreign Ministry Director General Yuval Rotem and his Turkish counterpart in Ankara.

The statement said talks were focused on “cooperation in areas such as energy, economy, culture and tourism.”

It added: “As a result, both sides have agreed to enhance cooperation on the said issues through exchanges of ministerial visits, high level business, academic and cultural delegations, starting with the upcoming visits of the Turkish minister of culture and tourism and the Turkish minister of economy to Israel.”

Both Jerusalem and Ankara “reaffirmed the importance of better Turkish-Israeli relations for the stability and the security of the region.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) and Israeli ambassador to Ankara Eitan Naeh (L) are seen after Naeh presented his letter of credence to Erdogan at the presidential complex in Ankara, on December 5, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / ADEM ALTAN)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) and Israeli ambassador to Ankara Eitan Naeh (L) are seen after Naeh presented his letter of credence to Erdogan at the presidential complex in Ankara, on December 5, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / ADEM ALTAN)

Last month, the respective ambassadors to both countries presented their credentials to presidents Reuven Rivlin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, marking a fresh start to relations between the two states after intense détente efforts after relations soured under the AKP-led government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and reached a nadir following a deadly May 2010 raid by Israeli forces on a Gaza blockade-busting ship, the Mavi Marmara, in which 10 Turks were killed in a melee after they attacked IDF troops.

Israel and Turkey had previously been close economic and defense allies.

A lengthy reconciliation process between the countries began in 2013 and an agreement was finally signed last summer.

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