Top Israeli diplomat may be headed to Istanbul for summit
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Top Israeli diplomat may be headed to Istanbul for summit

High-level official visit would mark latest sign of efforts to revamp moribund ties; Jerusalem refuses to confirm

Foreign Ministry Director General Dore Gold arrives at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, on August 5, 2015. (Marc Israel Sellem/Flash 90)
Foreign Ministry Director General Dore Gold arrives at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, on August 5, 2015. (Marc Israel Sellem/Flash 90)

The head of Israel’s Foreign Ministry will reportedly attend a humanitarian summit in Istanbul next week, in a fresh sign of thawing ties with Turkey.

Ministry Director Dore Gold, who has been heading up rapprochement talks with Ankara, will travel to Turkey on May 23 for the World Humanitarian Summit, the Turkish Hurriyet daily reported Thursday.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry said it could not confirm the report, which comes amid reports of a cabinet reshuffle, with Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon possibly taking the Foreign Ministry portfolio from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and giving up his own seat to Avigdor Liberman.

Liberman has called Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan an “anti-Semitic bully” and compared him to Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels.

The trip would be among the highest-level official Israeli visit to Turkey in recent years, after a period of bad blood between the countries and all-but-severed relations.

The countries have stepped up efforts to revamp ties in recent months, holding several meetings in Europe, though reports indicate the sides have failed to reach terms on Turkish demands that Israel ease its blockade on Gaza and Israeli demands that Ankara stop harboring Hamas leaders.

Turkish officials said Gold’s visit was not planned to include detente talks, Hurriyet reported.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan gestures as he delivers a speech during the mukhtars (local town government heads) meeting at the Presidential Complex in Ankara on March 16, 2016. (AFP/Adem Altan)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan gestures as he delivers a speech during the mukhtars (local town government heads) meeting at the Presidential Complex in Ankara on March 16, 2016. (AFP/Adem Altan)

Ibrahim Kalin, a spokesman for Erdogan, said last month the normalization of ties between Israel and Turkey hinges on reaching an agreement over humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip.

Kalin said Turkey insists on the “re-establishment of conditions for humanitarian aid to Gaza” and supports an independent state of Palestine “whose capital is East Jerusalem.” His remarks contrasted with a Turkish Foreign Ministry statement the previous week suggesting an agreement would be finalized “very soon.”

The accord would come almost six years after a deadly 2010 raid on a Gaza-bound Turkish ship attempting to breach the blockade, in which 10 Turkish citizens were killed during a melee aboard the vessel. The incident led to a nosedive in already tense relations between the two countries. Turkey demanded an immediate apology, compensation for the victims’ families and the lifting of the blockade on Gaza before normal relations could resume.

Israel refused and only issued an official apology some three years later. Talks on compensation have reached advanced stages, according to reports, but one of the main hurdles has been the lifting of the Israeli blockade.

Talks have also reportedly gotten hung up over Israeli demands for a commitment from Turkey to end tacit support for Hamas.

The Mavi Marmara is seen off the coast of Israel in May 2010. (photo credit: Kobi Gideon/Flash90)
The Mavi Marmara is seen off the coast of Israel in May 2010. (photo credit: Kobi Gideon/Flash90)

After several years of chilly ties and acrimonious accusations from both sides, officials met in December in secret talks to seek a rapprochement, with another round of high-level talks taking place in February in Geneva.

A bombing in March in Istanbul that left three Israelis dead also led to cooperation between the countries and high-level contacts between leaders in Ankara and Jerusalem for the first time in years.

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