Erdogan and Netanyahu meet for first time in years

Israeli-Turkish relations are moving forward, a month after the two countries exchanged ambassadors, with a high-level military meeting held Tuesday in Brussels and a senior diplomatic meeting scheduled for later this month in Ankara.

In between, a Turkish business delegation arrived on Wednesday to boost the economic ties between the states that remained strong, even as the military and diplomatic relations nosedived following the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident in which Israel Navy commandos killed nine Turks trying to break the blockade of Gaza.

Turkish officials confirmed that Turkey’s Chief of Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar met Tuesday on the sidelines of a meeting of NATO military leaders with IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Maj.-Gen. Yair Golan for the first high-level meeting between senior security officials from the two countries since before the Mavi Marmara incident.

Golan was in Brussels to participate in the opening of Israel’s mission to NATO, a mission Israel was able to open after NATO member Turkey dropped its opposition.

Israel and Turkey signed an agreement last summer paving the way for the reestablishment of full diplomatic ties. Israel dispatched Eitan Na’eh as its ambassador to Turkey in December, and Turkey sent Kemal Okem as its envoy to Israel soon afterward.

Israel and Turkey enjoyed a “golden age” in the 1990s and early 2000s, before the election of Recep Tayyip Erdogan as prime minister.

This “golden age” was reflected in considerable military cooperation, in regard to weapons sales, training and intelligence sharing. This all ended with the Mavi Marmara incident.

Tuesday’s meeting was widely seen in Jerusalem as more important for the message sent by the very existence of the meeting than for the content of the meeting itself. There is little expectation on either side that the intimacy that once existed in the military relationship will be restored any time soon to what it once was.

That being said, one Turkish official said the meeting was “a good sign, a good start” in terms of renewed partnership between the two countries.

“After years of no military contacts,” the official said, “this is a good sign of healing the relations.”

On the political level, Foreign Ministry director-general Yuval Rotem is scheduled to travel to Ankara by the end of the month for high-level consultations to discuss strengthening the economic, cultural and security ties between the two countries. Rotem will be meeting Umit Yalcin, his counterpart in the Turkish Foreign Ministry.

Both countries are attaching importance to this meeting, which is expected to survey all the issues between the two states and chart out a plan for moving forward.

Like the meeting between the military leaders in Brussels, this will be the first one of its kind as well since 2010.


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