Israel, Turkey to exchange ambassadors ‘in coming days’
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Israel, Turkey to exchange ambassadors ‘in coming days’

Amid heated sparring over Israeli strikes on Gaza, Turkish FM Cavusoglu says countries formalizing renewal of ties

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu (R) and Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Linas Linkevicius (L) give a joint press conference following their meeting at the Foreign Ministry Residence in Ankara, on August 22, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / ADEM ALTAN)
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu (R) and Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Linas Linkevicius (L) give a joint press conference following their meeting at the Foreign Ministry Residence in Ankara, on August 22, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / ADEM ALTAN)

Israel and Turkey this week will begin the process of exchanging ambassadors as the former allies continued the formal renewal of diplomatic relations after a six-year rift, Turkey’s foreign minister said Tuesday.

Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters at a press conference the exchange will take place “in the coming days,” according to a report in Turkish news outlet Haber10.

The ambassadors from both countries have yet to be announced.

Turkey’s announcement came a day after Jerusalem and Ankara traded fierce recriminations over Israel’s bombardment of Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip on Sunday.

The Israel Defense Forces carried out a series of airstrikes in the Palestinian territory late Sunday, targeting Hamas positions in response to a Palestinian rocket attack that hit an Israeli border town of Sderot. Between two and five people were reported lightly injured.

Less than 72 hours after the Ankara parliament ratified renewed ties with the Jewish state, Turkey issued a blistering condemnation of the Israeli strikes.

“The fact that our ties with Israel have normalized does not mean that we will remain silent in the face of such attacks that target the Palestinian people,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Monday.

Turkish protestors set fire to an Israeli flag while shouting slogans during a demonstration against the Israeli military operation in Gaza, Saturday, July 19, 2014 in front of the Israeli Consulate in Istanbul. (photo credit: Ozan Kose/AFP)
Turkish protestors set fire to an Israeli flag while shouting slogans during a demonstration against the Israeli military operation in Gaza, Saturday, July 19, 2014 in front of the Israeli Consulate in Istanbul. (photo credit: Ozan Kose/AFP)

“On the contrary, we will continue to (defend) the Palestinian cause,” it said, calling Israel’s actions “against international laws and especially against consciences.”

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon responded in kind.

“The normalization of our relations with Turkey does not mean that we will remain silent in the face of its baseless condemnations.”

“Israel will continue to defend its civilians from all rocket fire on our territory, in accordance with international law and our conscience. Turkey should think twice before criticizing the military actions of others,” he said.

Turkey and Israel reached an agreement last month to end a six-year fight caused by an Israeli naval raid on a Turkish aid ship trying to breach Israel’s blockade of Gaza. Ten Turkish activists were killed in the raid.

Turkey expelled the Israeli ambassador and suspended all defense ties in 2011.

In June 2016 the two countries reached agreement on restoring ties and Israel’s security cabinet approved the deal.

On Friday evening, Turkey’s parliament approved the reconciliation agreement under which Israel will pay $20 million in compensation to the victims within 25 days. Under the agreement, individual Israeli nationals also wouldn’t be held criminally or financially liable for the incident.

On Monday, Turkish police detained five people who tried to break into the Israeli consulate in Istanbul to protest the Gaza airstrikes.

State-run Anadolu Agency said the five entered a business center housing the consulate early Monday and were detained by police who were called to the scene. Security around the building was increased, the agency reported.

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