Israel minister in Turkey for first visit after crisis

AFP , Thursday 13 Oct 2016

Israeli Energy Minister
Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz responds to questions during a press conference at the 23rd World Energy Congress on October 13, 2016 in Istanbul (Photo: AFP0

Israeli's energy minister was holding talks in Turkey on Thursday, on the first such trip since the two countries normalised ties after the 2010 crisis over Israel's deadly storming of a Gaza-bound aid ship.

The landmark trip by Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz marks the first visit at ministerial level from Israel in the past six years and comes as energy importer Turkey is keeping a close eye on the Jewish state's developing offshore gas reserves.

Until the 2010 crisis, NATO member Turkey had been Israel's key ally in the Muslim world, with the process to normalise relations strongly backed by the United States.

Steinitz arrived in Istanbul in the morning and was holding talks with Turkish Energy Minister Berat Albayrak, who is also President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's son-in-law, an embassy official, who asked not to be named, told AFP.

Steinitz was later due to address the World Energy Congress in Istanbul, delivering the opening remarks for an Atlantic Council panel titled "A New Landscape in the Eastern Mediterranean."

The relationship between the two countries plunged to an all time low after the Israeli commandos' raid on the Gaza-bound ship that killed 10 Turks, prompting Ankara to expel the Israeli ambassador and freeze all defence ties.

The two sides finally agreed in June to end the six-year bitter rift after long-running secret talks in third countries.

Israel offered compensation and an apology over the raid, 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.

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