Turkey chooses envoy to Israel, in final stage of reconciliation deal
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Turkey chooses envoy to Israel, in final stage of reconciliation deal

New ambassador named in Turkish media as foreign policy expert Kemal Okem; appointment yet to be officially confirmed

Shani Cooper, diplomatic attaché to the Israeli mission in Ankara, shakes hands with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at a reception in the Turkish capital on August 30, 2016. (Courtesy of the Turkish presidency)
Shani Cooper, diplomatic attaché to the Israeli mission in Ankara, shakes hands with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at a reception in the Turkish capital on August 30, 2016. (Courtesy of the Turkish presidency)

Turkey reportedly picked its new ambassador to Israel, in the final key stage of a recent reconciliation agreement between Ankara and Jerusalem that ended years of hostility between the formerly close allies.

Quoting the Turkish media, Channel 2 television on Friday named the new envoy as Kemal Okem, a foreign policy expert, although there is no official confirmation yet of the appointment.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry chief Dore Gold will convene the nomination committee to select the new ambassador to Ankara after the Jewish Holidays on October 27, the Ynet news website reported this week. The two countries will officially announce the new ambassadors at the same time, the report said.

The exchange of diplomats, who were pulled out of both countries even though formal relations were never fully severed, is the last central element of the agreement signed in June to restore ties.

Relations between the former allies deteriorated with the rise of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AKP to power, then broke off almost completely in 2010 following an Israeli naval raid on a Turkish flotilla trying to breach Israel’s blockade of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.

The raid, in which IDF commandos were attacked by activists on board the Mavi Marmara vessel, left 10 Turks dead and several Israeli soldiers wounded.

Footage taken from the 'Mavi Marmara' security cameras, showing activists preparing to attack IDF soldiers, May 2010. (IDF Spokesperson / FLASH90)
Footage taken from the ‘Mavi Marmara’ security cameras, showing activists preparing to attack IDF soldiers, May 2010. (IDF Spokesperson/Flash90)

Israel several weeks ago paid Turkey $20 million in compensation for the deadly raid, another central pillar of the deal. The money was transferred to the account of the Turkish justice ministry, a Turkish foreign ministry official told AFP.

The compensation was another of the key demands by Turkey in the reconciliation deal, along with an apology by Israel and an easing of the blockade on the Gaza Strip.

Israel made the apology three years ago, and while the blockade remains in place — due to Israeli concerns that Hamas would import weapons and other materiel — Ankara has been able to resume delivery of humanitarian aid to the Palestinians through Israeli ports.

Turkey and Israel also agreed that individual Israeli nationals would not be held criminally or financially liable for the Mavi Marmara raid.

The reconciliation agreement was encouraged by a United States keen to see its Muslim NATO ally resume its previously tight relationship with Israel.

AFP contributed to this report

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