January 27, 2023

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Turkey’s New Ambassador to Israel Begins Work after Four Years

3 min read

On Thursday, the incoming ambassador from Turkey to Israel presented his letter of credence in Jerusalem.

This would allow him to start working as the Turkey’s ambassador to Israel, a position that has remained vacant for over four years.

The copy of the letter was submitted by Sakir Ozkan Torunlar to the chief of state protocol of the Foreign Ministry, Gil Haskel.

He is expected to present the original letter in the near future to President Isaac Herzog, after which he will take up his position officially.

After his meeting with Haskel, he began meeting other officials of the Foreign Ministry.

The ties

Turkey had recalled its ambassador back in May 2019 and had asked Israel’s ambassador to leave due to the rioting that was taking place on the Gaza border, which resulted in dozens of Palestinian’s deaths.

This year in August, the two countries announced complete renewal of diplomatic ties. Israel announced in September that Israel’s next ambassador to Turkey would be Irit Lillian.

She had played a key role in the reconciliation of the two countries. She has been dealing with the affairs of Israel in Ankara since February last year.

During this time, both Turkey and Israel have slowly and steadily moved towards restoring diplomatic relations.

The ambassador

As for Turkey’s new ambassador, he is a veteran diplomat and had been recently serving as ambassador to India.

Previously, he had worked as consul general in Jerusalem, which made him Turkey’s ambassador to the Palestinians.

Haskel posed with Torunlar for pictures and said that they wanted to welcome the new ambassador officially.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the President of Turkey, said in the letter that they wanted to continue and strengthen the relationship between the two countries.

Israel had been an ally of Turkey for a long time before relationships had taken a turn for the worse after the election of Erdogan.

The tensions

It was in 2010 that tensions had come to a head after 10 Turkish activists had died on a ship bound to Gaza after Israeli soldiers had come onboard.

Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel at the time, had issued an apology to Erdogan, but the latter had remained angry.

He had gone as far as calling Israel a ‘terrorist state’ for the Operation Defensive Shield that had occurred in July 2014.

There had been a slight recovery in relations after that, but the two countries had withdrawn their ambassadors in 2018 after Erdogan accused Israel of ‘genocide’ and ‘state terrorism’ due to the death of Palestinians in the Gaza riot.

This had happened after Donald Trump, the President of the US back then, had shifted the country’s embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.

This year, there had been hints that Erdogan wanted to resume ties with Israel. President Herzog had visited Turkey this year in March officially and a full military procession had welcomed him in Ankara.

In June, the outgoing Prime Minister Yair Lapid had also visited the Turkish capital when he had still been foreign minister.

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