Israel hosts Turkey’s new ambassador after 4 years of frosty ties

Jerusalem, Jan 11 (EFE).- Turkey’s new ambassador to Israel, Sakir Ozkan Torunlar, presented his credentials Wednesday to Israeli president Isaac Herzog, who called for their bilateral relations to be strengthened after four years of frosty diplomatic ties.

“It is no secret that the State of Israel attaches great importance to our historic relationship with Turkey, as do I personally. It is a relationship that has known crises in the past but is now, to our joy, on a very encouraging trajectory,” Herzog said, following a ceremony at the Presidential Residence in Jerusalem.

“I am sure that we will all continue to strengthen relations between our countries based on mutual respect, for the sake of a better future,” the president added, extending an invitation to Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan to pay an official visit to Israel.

Earlier Wednesday, the ambassadors of Australia, the Philippines, El Salvador and South Korea also presented their credentials to Herzog.

Israel and Turkey fully resumed diplomatic relations in August after two years of slow reconciliation. The rapprochement, facilitated by Herzog’s visit to Ankara in March, accelerated markedly last year.

In December, Israel’s new ambassador to Turkey, Irit Lillian, handed over her credentials to Erdogan after being appointed in September.

Turkey and Israel, allies since the founding of the Jewish state in 1948, broke off relations after an Israeli commando killed ten Turkish activists sailing to Gaza during the Mavi Marmara incident in 2010.

They resumed in 2016 and drifted apart again in 2018 over the response of Israeli troops to riots on the Gaza border.

After winning elections in November, right-wing Benjamin Netanyahu spoke with Erdogan on the phone, with both showing their readiness to maintain ties and significantly strengthen economic relations.

Netanyahu, who has ruled Israel on and off for 15 years, has been at odds with Erdogan in the past. The leaders have openly accused each other on a range of issues, especially in relation to Israel’s policy in occupied Palestinian territory.

Last week, Turkey conveyed its rejection of the “unacceptable” visit of the new Israeli National Security Minister, the far-right Itamar Ben Gvir, to the Esplanade of the Mosques in Jerusalem.

This site is the third holiest for Muslims – it houses the important Al Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, where Mohammed is believed to have ascended to heaven – and the most holy for Jews, who call it the Temple Mount because they believe the Second Temple was erected there.

According to the status quo in force since 1967, when Israel occupied the eastern part of Jerusalem where the esplanade is located, the compound is reserved exclusively for the Islamic worship, while Jews can only enter as visitors and pray at the adjacent Wailing Wall.

The Chief Rabbinate of Israel authorizes only certain rabbis to pray on the esplanade, but in recent years, many aligned with the religious Zionism movement have called for general prayer there.

Championing that movement, Ben Gvir, known for his anti-Arab rhetoric, has stormed the site with numerous Jewish settlers since before he took office as minister, stoking clashes and tensions with Palestinians. EFE


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