Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz landed in Turkey on Wednesday night, launching the first official visit of an Israeli minister to the country since bilateral ties nosedived in the wake of a deadly raid on the Mavi Marmara ship in 2010.
Peretz arrived in Istanbul to participate in an environmental conference, Channel 2 reported.
The Prime Minister’s Office was quoted as saying that Peretz had obtained all the necessary permits to make the trip in his capacity as the head of the Environmental Protection Ministry. The ministry declined to comment to The Times of Israel about the visit.
The report said officials in the Turkish government were optimistic that diplomatic relations between the two countries could improve in the near future.
The Mavi Marmara was part of a flotilla that sailed toward the Gaza Strip to try to break Israel’s naval blockade of the Hamas-controlled territory. The Israeli Navy intercepted all other vessels in flotilla without resistance, but commandos were attacked with metal bars and clubs when they boarded the Marmara on may 30, 2010. They opened fire, killing nine Turks.
The incident exacerbated already-strained diplomatic ties between Israel and Turkey, two former warm allies.
In March, in a phone conversation arranged during the final moments of US President Barack Obama’s visit to Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologized to his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, for operational errors made in the raid and promised compensation for the victims and their families.
Adiv Sterman contributed to this report.