Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein said on Monday that he would like to make an official visit to Turkey if invited by the speaker of the Turkish parliament.
After exchanging ambassadors in December as part of a reconciliation agreement signed in July, Israel and Turkey have sought to improve cooperation which reached a nadir following the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident.
Relations between the former allies were nearly severed 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.
Speaking with a group of Turkish reporters invited to Israel by the Foreign Ministry, Edelstein said he “will be happy” to visit Turkey if invited by his Turkish counterpart Ismail Kahraman, and that he hoped Kahraman would visit Israel, according to a statement from the Knesset spokesperson.
Edelstein is set to meet with Kahraman at a meeting of European parliamentary speakers in Turkey next year, but said he hoped the two could meet before then.
He would hope to discuss the “shared issues of regional stability and advancing cooperation between countries in the region and their parliaments,” he said, and that such a meeting would not just be “a photo-op of shaking hands.”
In addition, Edelstein called on Turkey to join the tripartite meetings between Israel, Greece and Cyprus on regional cooperation, and hoped Jordan, Egypt and other countries in the region “will join this important dialogue.”
Last month, Turkish Tourism Minister Nabi Avci visited Israel in the first visit by a Turkish minister since July’s reconciliation agreement, while earlier in February a high-level delegation of Turkish energy officials met with their Israeli counterparts, during which they reportedly discussed an initiative to lay an underwater gas pipeline between Israel and energy hub Turkey.
Although no high-level Israeli officials have visited Turkey on state business since the July agreement, Culture Minister Miri Regev was in Turkey last month to accompany the Ironi Nahariya basketball team for a Europe Cup game, after Turkish authorities insisted that a minister be present in order for the team to bring its own armed guards.
While in Turkey, Regev met with Gaziantep mayor Fatma Sahin, to whom she offered elephants for the city’s zoo in exchange for the return of the Siloam Inscription, which is housed in Turkey.
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