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Israel and Turkey to restore ambassadors in full renewal of diplomatic ties

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu vows that Ankara is ‘not giving up on the Palestinian cause’; Lapid: Move is ‘an important asset for regional stability’

President Isaac Herzog (left) and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the presidential complex in Ankara, on March 9, 2022. (Haim Zach/GPO)
President Isaac Herzog (left) and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the presidential complex in Ankara, on March 9, 2022. (Haim Zach/GPO)

Israel and Turkey announced a full renewal of diplomatic ties on Wednesday, following a recent phone conversation between Prime Minister Yair Lapid and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Lapid hailed the development in a statement released by the Prime Minister’s Office as “an important asset for regional stability and very important economic news for the citizens of Israel,” adding, “We will continue to strengthen Israel’s standing in the world.”

As part of the upgrade in ties, both countries are slated to soon exchange ambassadors and consuls general, though no timeline was provided.

“This restoration of diplomatic relations is a continuation of the positive direction in the development of relations over the past year, since President [Isaac] Herzog’s diplomatic visit to Ankara, and the reciprocal visits of the foreign ministers to Jerusalem and Ankara,” the statement said.

The new agreement was expected to contribute to growth in “economic, trade, cultural ties and strengthening regional stability.”

Herzog, who embarked on a rare state visit to Turkey earlier this year, welcomed “the renewal of full diplomatic relations with Turkey — an important development that we’ve been leading for the past year, which will encourage greater economic relations, mutual tourism, and friendship between the Israeli and Turkish peoples.”

After a year of warming relations between the nations, the final agreement was reached after a conversation Tuesday evening between Israel’s Foreign Ministry director-general Alon Ushpiz and Turkish Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Önal.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, right, and Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid shake hands after statements, in Ankara, Turkey, June 23, 2022. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters on Wednesday that “we are not giving up on the Palestinian cause,” despite the upgrade in ties with Israel.

The return of ambassadors “is important to improving bilateral ties,” Cavusoglu said, adding: “As we have always said, we will continue to defend the rights of Palestinians.”

Tourism Minister Yoel Razbozov welcomed Wednesday’s news, saying that Israel is looking forward “to hosting more Turkish tourists, who will strengthen the tourism industry and the connection between the countries.”

Israel was a long-time regional ally of Turkey, before a 2010 commando raid on the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara, part of a blockade-busting flotilla, left 10 Turkish activists dead after they attacked Israeli soldiers who boarded the ship.

Despite an official apology by then prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Erdogan maintained his rage, accusing the Jewish state of “keeping Hitler’s spirit alive” during Operation Defensive Shield in July 2014.

Despite a moderate improvement in relations, both countries withdrew their ambassadors after Erdogan leveled charges of “state terrorism” and “genocide” at Israel when dozens of Palestinians were killed in Gaza rioting on May 14, 2018, the day former US president Donald Trump controversially moved the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

A seller attends a client in a gold shop next to a currency exchange post at the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, Turkey, Jan. 12, 2022. Turkey’s government and central bank have taken a series of complex steps in recent weeks to prop up a beleaguered economy crippled by skyrocketing consumer prices (AP/Francisco Seco)

Amid diplomatic signals indicating Erdogan was seeking détente with Israel, Herzog visited Ankara on an official trip in March and was welcomed in the capital by a full military procession.

Erdogan has likely been seeking to thaw relations with Israel to reduce Turkey’s growing political and economic isolation. The Turkish currency has plummeted in recent years, leaving Turkey in economic turmoil with an election slated for 2023.

Renewed coordination between Israel and Turkey was also on display after security forces from both countries worked together to prevent an Iranian assassination plot on Turkish soil in July.

Turkish forces tracked and arrested the Iranian agents as they attempted to kidnap and kill Israeli tourists in Istanbul in a revenge attack for Israel’s alleged assassination of a high-ranking Iranian military figure in May.

Erdogan may aim to use renewed relations as a springboard in his push to develop a gas pipeline that would see Israel pipe natural gas directly to Turkey for processing in a bid to reduce Turkish reliance on Russian gas.

Times of Israel staff and AFP contributed to this report.

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