In first since reconciliation, Erdogan meets with Israeli diplomat
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In first since reconciliation, Erdogan meets with Israeli diplomat

Shani Cooper, diplomatic attaché at Israel’s mission in Ankara, shakes hands with Turkish president at official reception

Raoul Wootliff is the The Times of Israel's political correspondent.

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’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday shook the hand of an Israeli diplomatic official for the first time since Jerusalem and Ankara agreed on a reconciliation deal in June. The meeting was the first of its kind in two years.

Erdogan met and shook hands with Shani Cooper, the diplomatic attache to the Israeli mission in Ankara, during a reception with diplomats to mark Turkey’s Victory Day, a celebration of the nation’s independence.

In a sign of the warming relations between Israel and Turkey following the reconciliation deal, the photo was released to the press by the office of the Turkish Presidency.

Erdogan’s last meeting with an Israeli official took place at the same event two years earlier, when it was widely reported that he met with Yosef Levi Sfari, the charge d’affaires of Israel’s embassy in Ankara at the time. That meeting was the first in six years, and no photo was released on that occasion.

The latest meeting came a day before the Turkish president ratified the Israel-Turkey pact agreed to in June.

His country’s parliament voted to approve the pact earlier this month before it closed for a summer recess.

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks to the heads of chambers of commerce in Ankara, Turkey, on Thursday, Aug. 4, 2016. (Kayhan Ozer/Presidential Press Service, Pool Photo via AP)
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks to the heads of chambers of commerce in Ankara, Turkey, on Thursday, Aug. 4, 2016. (Kayhan Ozer/Presidential Press Service, Pool Photo via AP)

Relations between the former allies deteriorated with the rise of 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, left 10 Turks dead and several soldiers wounded.

Under the terms of the reconciliation agreement, Israel will pay a “lump sum” of $20 million in compensation to the victims within 25 days.

Individual Israeli nationals also would not be held criminally or financially liable for the incident.

Turkey and Israel will now begin the process of exchanging ambassadors to fully restore their diplomatic ties.

AP, AFP and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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