Israel and Turkey said Wednesday they had agreed to restore full diplomatic ties by reappointing ambassadors to Ankara and Tel Aviv, after a four-year hiatus, in the latest demonstration of warming relations between the former rivals.
Turkey recalled its ambassador to Israel in 2018 amid a deadly Israeli crackdown on demonstrators at the Israel-Gaza border protesting the U.S. decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv. Israel said the demonstrations threatened its security and withdrew its ambassador from Ankara.
“The resumption of relations with Türkiye is an important asset for regional stability and very important economic news for the citizens of Israel,” said Israeli Prime Minister
The move comes after a year of improving relations between the two sides, including a visit by Israeli President
to Ankara in March, followed by trips by their foreign ministers to both countries.
“Good neighborly relations and the spirit of partnership in the Middle East are important for us all. Members of all faiths—Muslims, Jews and Christians—can and must live together in peace,” Mr. Herzog tweeted following the announcement.
It also comes amid a broad effort by Turkish President Recep
to normalize relations with a range of former rivals across the Middle East. Mr. Erdogan visited the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia earlier this year in an attempt to reset ties with the Gulf countries, while also making efforts to improve relations with Egypt.
Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the exchange of ambassadors was a positive step following mutual efforts by both governments in recent months.
“The steps we would take to normalize relations include mutually reappointing of ambassadors,” Mr. Cavusoglu said on Wednesday, according to Turkey’s state-run news agency.
“We will continue to defend the rights of Palestine, Jerusalem and Gaza and it’s also important that we will be able to pass on our messages regarding this issue directly to Tel Aviv, at the ambassadorial level,” he said.
Though Turkey was the first Muslim-majority nation to recognize Israel in 1949, the two countries have had an uneasy relationship in recent years following Israel’s 2008-2009 military operation in the Gaza Strip. Mr. Erdogan, the leader of an Islamist political party, was sharply critical of the offensive, in which 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis died.
The relationship suffered further following an Israeli commando raid in 2010 that killed nine Turkish activists on board a ship carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza. Former Israeli Prime Minister
later apologized over the incident and paid Turkey $20 million in compensation for the raid, which took place in international waters.
Turkey and Israel share a range of interests including a desire to contain Israel’s foe, Iran. Turkey has full economic and diplomatic ties with Iran but has clashing interests with Tehran in the conflicts in Syria and Iraq.
In June, Israel said Iranian agents were seeking to kill or assassinate Israelis in Turkey. At that time, Israeli officials gave high praise to Turkey for what they said was tight coordination to arrest the Iranian cell and protect Israeli tourists there.
Turkey was the No. 1 destination for Israelis flying abroad in June and then again in July, according to data from the Israel Airports Authority.
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