Israel's Gantz relaunches defence ties with Turkey

AFP , Thursday 27 Oct 2022

Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz heralded Thursday a new era in his country's overt security ties with Turkey after a decade-long rupture, marked by a whirlwind visit to Ankara.

Israel   Turkey
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (C) poses for a photo with Israeli Defence Minister Benjamin Gantz (L) and Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar (R) at the Presidential Complex in Ankara, on October 27, 2022. AFP


Gantz's one-day trip to the powerful NATO member came two months after Israel and Turkey renewed diplomatic ties.

"For over a decade there were no formal security ties," Gantz said, following meetings with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Defence Minister Hulusi Akar.

"Today we're changing that, in a responsible and gradual process that serves Israel's interests".

Turkey in 1949 became the first Muslim-majority nation to recognise Israel.

But ties soured under Erdogan, who has moved away from his country's secularism since he became paramount leader in 2003. Bilateral relations began to fray in 2008, following an Israeli military operation in Gaza.

Relations then froze in 2010 after the deaths of 10 civilians following an Israeli raid on the Turkish Mavi Marmara ship, part of a flotilla trying to breach a blockade by carrying aid into the Gaza enclave.

A brief reconciliation lasted from 2016 until 2018, when Turkey withdrew its ambassador and expelled Israel's over the killing of Palestinians during a conflict with Gaza.

Following months of diplomatic warming, Israel and Turkey announced on August 17 the full restoration of relations and the return of ambassadors to both countries.

'Find solutions'

Erdogan has meanwhile maintained relations with Hamas, the Islamist movement that controls the densely populated Gaza Strip.

Akar, Turkey's defence minister, said that closer ties would help "find solutions to some current topics we think differently" about, including Palestine.

"We believe that the development of our relations and cooperation with Israel will also contribute to regional peace and stability," Akar said.

Addressing the presence of the militant Palestinian movement on Turkish soil, Gantz said that "the issue came up on our talks", and that Israel was constantly engaged with Turkish security organisations.

"This is the first strategic security meeting after many years, you can't take too big a bite out of what you bring into one meeting," he said.

Gantz said he believed "a lot more can be done together in order to reduce the influence of those who destabilise our regions, by supporting or conducting terrorism against innocent civilians."

"This also applies to the Palestinian arena," the Israeli minister said.

Gantz also met with Erdogan, where they discussed "strategic issues and reiterated their commitment to promoting stability, prosperity and security in the Middle East and East-Med Regions," a statement from Gantz's office said.

The visit came less than a week before a general Israeli election, the fifth in less than four years, with Gantz hoping to see his centrist National Unity faction remain a central player in a future coalition.

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