Erdoğan receives Israeli defense chief Gantz for talks in Ankara

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President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan received Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz for talks in the capital Ankara on Thursday.

The Turkish presidency did not give further details of the closed-door meeting, which was held at the presidential compound.

Previously, Gantz met with his Turkish counterpart Hulusi Akar to discuss bilateral relations and security issues.

Turkey and Israel have taken steps to normalize strained relations over the past two years, and in August the countries agreed to restore full diplomatic relations and reappoint ambassadors and consuls general after a four-year hiatus.

The development of relations between Turkey and Israel will facilitate the search for solutions to contentious issues, the Turkish Defense Minister said on Thursday.

“We believe that strengthening our bilateral cooperation and dialogue will also facilitate the resolution of some issues on which we have disagreements, in particular Palestine,” Hulusi Akar said during a press conference with his Israeli counterpart Gantz. in the capital Ankara.

Gantz’s visit to Türkiye is significant as it is the first by an Israeli defense minister in more than a decade.

“Turkey and Israel are important players in our region. At the same time, we have serious ties and common values ​​between Turkey and Israel, both historically and culturally.

“I would like to say that as a Türkiye, the development of our relations and cooperation with Israel, especially in areas such as defence, security and energy, will lead to important developments regarding peace and regional stability, and will make significant contributions,” the Turkish defense chief said.

During the “productive meeting,” as Akar described it, “we expressed very clearly our policy requirements, policy issues, opinions, assessments and sensitivities.”

He also said that during this “very important” visit, the ministers exchanged views on what can be done for the further development of stability, cooperation and security in the region.

“I hope these talks will make a significant contribution to relations between our countries and to peace in the region,” Akar said.

Turkey and Israel have taken steps to normalize their strained relations over the past two years, and in August the countries agreed to restore full diplomatic relations and reappoint ambassadors and consuls general after a four-year hiatus.

Gantz also said he asked his staff to start the process of resuming working relations with Türkiye after meeting his Turkish counterpart in Ankara in the first such visit in more than a decade.

“As agreed in our meetings, I have instructed my staff to initiate the necessary procedures to resume working relationships,” Gantz said at the joint press conference with Akar.

He said it is no secret that the ties have encountered difficulties, but continued: “Yet today I am happy to say that Turkey is one of our top five trading partners. Over the years, our economic ties have grown stronger.

He said there are many areas for future collaboration, adding, “This includes seeking diplomatic solutions to disputes in our regions, just as Israel did with Lebanon this morning.

“The maritime border agreement reflects the ability of opposing actors to cooperate in the interests of stability and economic prosperity. This agreement is a boon to the security of Israel and the region.”

He thanked Erdoğan and Akar for their “crucial and vital cooperation” in successfully eliminating a number of threats against Israeli citizens and the Jewish people in Turkey.

“I believe that much more can be done together to reduce the influence of those who destabilize our regions, by supporting or carrying out terrorist activities against innocent civilians.

“This also applies to the Palestinian arena, and I am convinced that deeper defense ties between our countries can have a positive impact on developments in this arena,” Gantz said.

He hailed Turkey for its important role in global stability. “Our ties are a positive addition, as we have strong partnerships with our friends in Greece, Cyprus and the Gulf countries. In fact, we can build bridges and reduce conflict for the benefit of all parties involved.”

Gantz is a candidate for prime minister in Israel’s elections next week.

Relations between Israel and Turkey have been rocky since 2011, when Ankara expelled Israel’s ambassador following a 2010 Israeli raid on the Mavi Marmara aid ship in Gaza that killed ten Turkish citizens .

Diplomatic relations were restored in 2016 and the two countries exchanged ambassadors. But two years later, Turkey recalled its diplomats from Israel and expelled Israeli envoys when Israeli forces killed a number of Palestinians who had taken part in the “March of Return” protests in the Gaza Strip.

Earlier this year, Israeli President Isaac Herzog visited Ankara as part of his first visit to Turkey by an Israeli leader since 2008.

“Moving forward, we need to take a stable and positive approach to our relationship – maintaining an open dialogue,” Gantz said.

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