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Israel, Turkey sign deal to update aviation agreement

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

Israel and Turkey sign an outline civilian aviation agreement on July 7, 2022. (Boaz Oppenheim, GPO)
Israel and Turkey sign an outline civilian aviation agreement on July 7, 2022. (Boaz Oppenheim, GPO)

Israel and Turkey sign an outline civilian aviation agreement, set to replace the current accord dating back to 1951.

Prime Minister Yair Lapid and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu agreed last month to work toward the new agreement in their recent meetings in Jerusalem and in Ankara, as the two countries continue to move steadily toward restoring full diplomatic relations.

Irit Lillian, charge d’affaires in Ankara, tells The Times of Israel that this is a “first step” in the signing of the full aviation agreement.

“We have finished the round of talks between the two countries and between the two aviation authorities,” she says. “The two governments now have to finish the process according to their own procedures, then the document will be ready for the signature of the ministers and will go into effect.”

The outline agreement is signed by Joel Feldschuh, the Civil Aviation Authority director general, during a ceremony conducted by video conference.

Lillian stresses that today’s signing was still an important step, “because it means that the agreement, in our eyes, is set.”

The final agreement is expected to reflect changes in the aviation procedures, laws, and technology, and also updates the number of flights allowed between the countries.

The finer details of the agreement now must pass through both countries’ internal approval processes, which could well be held up in Israel because of the current political situation.

The agreement does not solve the disagreements keeping Israeli carriers from flying to Turkey.

Israeli airlines have been unable to fly to any destination in Turkey since 2007, because Turkish authorities refused to cooperate with Israel’s special security requirements.

“It’s an important step, but there are additional professional details that must be closed,” Lillian explains. The aviation authorities must meet again to work out those details, and Israel’s security agencies will have to review them as well.

The aviation agreement signed today is not a precondition for the return of Israeli carriers to Turkey, but makes the work on finding a security agreement much easier, says Lillian.

The last time the two sides discussed a new civilian aviation agreement was in 2013, but those efforts failed.

In the past year and a half, Jerusalem and Ankara have been working to move beyond the years-long crisis in relations between the two sides. President Isaac Herzog and Lapid visited Turkey this year, and Israel’s senior leaders have spoken several times with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The two sides are focused on signing a range of agreements as part of the upturn in bilateral ties.

“This is an important milestone in the deepening and broadening of the relation between the countries,” says Lillian.

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