Middle East

Turkey, Israel to restore full diplomatic ties

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Israel and Turkey will restore full diplomatic ties and will re-appoint respective ambassadors, said Turkish and Israeli officials on Wednesday. The restoration follows years of strained relations between the two Mediterranean nations.

Turkey and Israel expelled respective ambassadors in 2018 over the killing of 60 Palestinians by Israeli forces during protests on the Gaza border against the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem.

But they have been working to mend long-strained ties with energy emerging as a key area for potential cooperation.

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid's office said on Wednesday the two countries decided to restore full diplomatic ties.

"It was decided to once again upgrade the level of the relations between the two countries to that of full diplomatic ties and to return ambassadors and consuls general," Lapid's office said in a statement following a conversation between the prime minister and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

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"Upgrading relations will contribute to deepening ties between the two peoples, expanding economic, trade, and cultural ties, and strengthening regional stability," it added.

Following my conversation with President @RTErdogan, Israel & Türkiye have decided to restore full diplomatic ties between our nations, including returning ambassadors.

This will contribute not only to deepening our bilateral ties, but to strengthening regional stability. 🇮🇱 🇹🇷

— יאיר לפיד – Yair Lapid (@yairlapid) August 17, 2022

Turkey vows to defend Palestinian rights

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the decision to restore diplomatic relations with Israel did not mean that Ankara would abandon its support for Palestinians.

Cavusoglu said the decision will allow mostly Muslim, but officially secular Turkey to lobby for Palestinian interests in Gaza, the West Bank and Jerusalem.

The return of ambassadors "is important to improving bilateral ties," Cavusoglu said, adding: "As we have always said, we will continue to defend the rights of Palestinians."

Turkey does not recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital and its embassy is located in Tel Aviv.

Cavusoglu said Turkish ambassador would be designated after a list was presented to Erdogan.

A visit to Turkey by Israeli President Isaac Herzog in March, followed by visits by both foreign ministers, helped warm relations after more than a decade of tensions.

The move, which comes as Israel has sought to improve ties with regional powers, was agreed two years after the so-called Abraham Accords which saw relations normalised between Israel, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Morocco.

Turkey also launched a charm offensive in 2020 to repair ties with estranged rivals, making overtures to Egypt, the UAE, Israel and Saudi Arabia. Efforts with Cairo have so far yielded little progress, but officials have said normalisation work with Riyadh and Abu Dhabi is going well.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and Reuters)

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