Israeli minister signals resumption of defence ties with Turkey

Israel's defence minister on Thursday signalled a possible resumption of defence ties with Turkey in the latest step of normalization of ties between the countries which have been strained for a decade.

Israeli government defence staff have been instructed "to begin the procedures required in order to resume working relations,” AP cited Israeli Défense Minister Benny Gantz as saying after a meeting with his Turkish counterpart Hulusi Akar in Ankara.

“It is no secret that our ties have faced challenges,” Gantz, the first top defence official from his country to visit Turkey in more than a decade, said. “Moving forward, we must adopt a steady, positive approach in our relations – maintaining open dialogue.”

Turkey and Israel have been exerting efforts over the last few months to repair bilateral relations that 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 two regional powers had expelled ambassadors in 2018 and in August announced that they would reinstate full diplomatic ties. 

Following his meeting Gantz, Akar highlighted that increased cooperation and dialogue with Israel would also help the resolution of disagreements, including the issue of the Palestinians, AP reported.

“The development of our relationship and cooperation with Israel, especially in areas such as defence, security and energy, will lead to important developments in regional peace and stability,” Turkey’s top defence official said.

Once close defence partners, Turkey and Israel in the mid-1990s signed defence agreements that allowed Israeli air force pilots to train over Turkey’s airspace. Israel has also upgraded the tanks and jets, and supplied drones and other high-tech equipment to the Turkish Armed Forces.

“This year, as a result of close, covert contact, we succeeded in removing an alarming number of threats against Israeli citizens and Jewish people in Turkey," Gantz said. "We are thankful to President Erdogan, Minister Akar and the security agencies involved in this crucial, life-saving cooperation."

Turkish authorities detained five Iranians suspected of planning attacks on Israelis ahead of a June visit to Turkey by Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, Turkish media reported.

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