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    A Turkish flag flutters atop the Turkish embassy as an Israeli flag is seen nearby, in Tel Aviv, Israel June 26, 2016

    Friends Again? After 6-Year Lull Turkish-Israel Consultations Kick Off in Ankara

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    Turkey and Israel will hold political consultations for the first time since bilateral relations nosedived in 2010, Anadolu news agency reported.

    The consultations are set to be held in Ankara on February 1.

    The Turkish delegation is led by Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Umit Yalcin and Israel’s delegation is headed by Yuval Rotem, director general of the Israeli Foreign Ministry.

    In an interview with Sputnik Turkey, former Turkish ambassador in Tel-Aviv Oğuz Çelikkol said that the two countries had already exchanged diplomatic envoys and were currently holding a series of political consultations.

    “The last time we had such consultations was in 2010 and six years after the Mavi Marmara incident [in which Israel Navy commandos killed nine Turks trying to break the blockade of Gaza], we are back at the table again to discuss bilateral and regional issues.”

    He added that the Turkish Culture and Tourism Minister Nabi Avci was scheduled to visit Israel and Palestine later this month.

    “We will be focusing on economic cooperation, energy and tourism. We are also going to resume our previous practice of discussing regional problems which used to play an important role in our relations before the crisis,” Oğuz Çelikkol added.

    He also said that it would take some time for the two countries to restore their defense and security cooperation to the pre-crisis level.

    Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump’s full-throated support for Israel and his desire to move the US embassy from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem could create new problems in Israel’s relations with the Palestinians and other countries in the region.

    Oğuz Çelikkol said that he did not expect Washington to fast-track its decision on the US mission’s move to Jerusalem.

    “I don’t think this is going to happen any time soon. My personal experience tells me that tensions in Israeli-Palestinian relations have always reflected on Israel’s relations with Turkey. Any additional frictions between Israel and the Palestinians would seriously impact regional, international and bilateral relations,” Oğuz Çelikkol observed.

    He added that even though the Syrian problem was unlikely to have any direct impact on Israel’s relations with Turkey, it woudl still be on the agenda of the Ankara meeting.

    Engin Altay, deputy leader of the parliamentary faction of the oppiosition Republican People’s Party, was less optimistic about the future of relations between Turkey and Israel.

    “We would like to avoid any tensions in our relations with Israel, of course. Our party is a party of peace and friendship with all countries. But, frankly speaking, I don’t believe that relations between our government, which  acceped $20 million from Israel as compansation for the lives of our countrymen who died during the Mavi Marmara incident, will be developing in perfect harmony and with full regard for the inerest of our country,” Engin Altay said.

    Relations between Turkey and Israel soured in May 2010, following the Freedom Flotilla incident when a convoy of six ships, including the Turkish-flagged Mavi Marmara, with humanitarian aid and activists on board, tried to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza.

    The flotilla was stormed by Israeli Navy commandos who killed nine Turks on board the Mavi Marmara. Turkey immediately recalled its ambassador, and expelled Israel’s envoy a year later.

    The two countries finally reached a reconciliation agreement last summer.

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    Tags:
    political consultations, compensation, bilateral ties, economic cooperation, Turkish Republican People's Party (CHP), Israeli Navy, Oğuz Çelikkol, Yuval Rotem, Umit Yalcin, Engin Altay, Donald Trump, Turkey
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