Turkish FM Announces Process to Normalize Diplomatic Ties With Israel
Turkey originally established ties with Israel in 1949, becoming one of the first Muslim countries to recognize the Jewish State. However, bilateral relations deteriorated amid Ankara's criticism of Israel's policies towards Palestinians.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has announced that Ankara and Tel Aviv began working on restoring diplomatic relations between the two countries to the level of ambassadors. He also said that the two countries discussed deeper economic cooperation. The Turkish minister did not specify a timeline for the two states to exchange ambassadors but promised it will happen soon.
Cavusoglu made the announcement following a meeting with his Israeli counterpart, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, in Turkey. During the visit - the first in 16 years of strained relations between the two countries - Lapid unveiled that Turkish intelligence services had countered terrorist attacks against Israeli citizens in Istanbul, which he claimed were organized by Iran.
"The lives of Israeli citizens have been saved thanks to the security and diplomatic cooperation between Israel and Turkey", Lapid said.
Several days prior to Lapid's visit to Turkey, Israel's foreign ministry had urged citizens to leave the country due to alleged threats of attacks organized by Iran. Tehran has not responded to reports that Turkish security services arrested an unknown number of Iranians who they claim plotted attacks on Israeli tourists and diplomatic workers.
While Turkey was among the first Muslim-majority countries to establish diplomatic ties with Israel in 1949, their bilateral relations have deteriorated over past decades. Ankara condemned Israeli policies towards Palestinians and its seizing of the West Bank. Tel Aviv, in turn, criticized Turkey for its continuing support of the Hamas group waging war against the Jewish State.
Ankara reduced diplomatic ties with Israel in September 2011 following the 2010 Mavi Marmara ferry incident. In 2010, Israeli commandos raided Mavi Marmara, which was sailing under a Turkish flag, killing nine, including eight Turkish nationals. The operation came as part of Tel Aviv's efforts to block a "Gaza Freedom Flotilla" trying to reach the Gaza Strip.
Following the massacre, Ankara demanded an apology. Tel Aviv, however, refused to give one and the UN ruled Israel's blockade and the Mavi Marmara incident - which happened in international waters - had violated international law, prompting Turkey to downgrade diplomatic ties with Israel.
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