Israeli minister due in Turkey for first post-crisis visit

Agence France-Presse
Israeli minister due in Turkey for first post-crisis visit
Yuval Steinitz is due to hold talks with his Turkish counterpart Berat Albayrak – son-in-law of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan – on the margins of the World Energy Congress in Istanbul

ISTANBUL, Turkey – A senior Israeli government minister is due to visit Turkey this week in the first such trip since the two countries normalized ties after a 6-year crisis over Israel’s deadly storming of a Gaza-bound ship.

Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz will attend the World Energy Congress in Istanbul on Thursday, October 13, the Israeli embassy in Ankara said in a statement.

“This is the first visit at ministerial level in the past 6 years, and it is the result of the rapprochement agreed upon by the two countries,” it said. 

Steinitz was due to hold talks with his Turkish counterpart Berat Albayrak – son-in-law of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan – on the margins of the Istanbul summit.

The two men would discuss energy cooperation between the two countries, the embassy said.

At the congress, the Israeli minister is to deliver the opening remarks for an Atlantic Council panel titled “A New Landscape in the Eastern Mediterranean,” the statement added.

After talks with the Turkish energy minister, Steinitz will hold a news conference.

The World Energy Congress got under way on Monday, with Russian President Vladimir Putin among those present.

Israel and Turkey signed a deal in June to restore ties which hit an all-time low after the 2010 raid by Israeli commandos on a Gaza-bound aid ship that killed 10 Turks. 

Israel has paid Turkey $20 million in compensation for the deadly storming — an amount which Turkish authorities said has been transferred to the account of the justice ministry. 

The Turkish government was due to pass on the money to the victims’ families who lodged cases at Turkish court.

In addition to the compensation, Israel also apologised and agreed to ease the blockade on the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. 

The blockade remains in place but Israel has allowed Turkish aid to reach Gaza through Israeli ports under the deal. 

Turkey and Israel are now set to restore full diplomatic relations, including the exchange of ambassadors who were pulled out in respective capitals after the crisis.

Israeli media said the foreign ministry would appoint an ambassador to Turkey on October 27 and an Israeli official confirmed it would likely happen.

Steinitz’s office said he had met with Erdogan on the sidelines of a nuclear security conference in Washington in April, prior to the finalisation of the deal normalising ties. 

The two discussed “exporting Israeli gas to Turkey and from there to Europe,” a statement said.

Ankara has shown interest in energy cooperation with Israel to receive gas from its offshore natural gas fields that are currently in development.

The Israeli embassy called the visit an “expression of the great potential that exists in bilateral political and economic relations.” – Rappler.com

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