Turkey, Israel planning economy conference after 13-year hiatus

Turkey and Israel are planning to hold a conference on the economy and trade relations as they seek to repair their ties, Asharq Al-Awsat reported citing an unidentified political source in Tel Aviv.

The event will be held in the autumn and Israeli Economy Minister Orna Barbivai has appointed Ambassador Matan Safran as a new economic attaché to Turkey, the London-based newspaper said on Tuesday.

Israel’s re-opening of an economy and trade relations office in Istanbul, announced in July, reflects its commitment to deepening relations, Barbivai said.

Diplomatic ties between Turkey and Israel have been strained for a decade due to Turkish support for Hamas, its criticism of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians and differences over energy policy in the eastern Mediterranean.

The economic conference would be the fifth between the two countries. The last such event was held in 2009.

Economic relations between Israel and Turkey have not been affected significantly by the downturn in bilateral relations, which resulted in the withdrawal of the two countries’ ambassadors in 2018. They have yet to be reinstated.

Trade reached a record of $7.7 billion last year, increasing by an annual 30 percent, Asharq Al-Awsat said. Turkey is Israel’s fourth most important trading partner, it said.

Israeli President Isaac Herzog paid a visit to Turkey in March, kickstarting an improvement in relations. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu visited Israel in May. In July, Herzog called Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to mark an annual Islamic holiday.

On Friday, Israel launched airstrikes on Gaza, saying they were a pre-emptive move aimed at preventing an Islamic Jihad attack. While Turkey condemned the strikes and said it was “deeply concerned” about the latest round of violence, it supported a position taken by Hamas to stay out of the fighting, Asharq Al-Awsat said.

Turkey thinks that Hamas’ decision has prevented an expansion of aggression and preserves positive measures taken by Israel towards the Gaza Strip, the newspaper said. The measures included Israel’s granting of 20,000 work permits for Gazans, allowing fuel and goods to cross in both directions, and laying the ground for a possible prisoner exchange deal, it said.

Barbivai announced the appointment of the economic attaché to Turkey on the same day that a truce between Israel and Islamic Jihad went into effect.

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