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Foreign Ministry chief to visit Turkey for first dialogue in six years

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The Director General of Israel’s Foreign Ministry will arrive in Turkey today for the first direct, bilateral talks between the two countries since a reconciliation agreement was signed last year, ending a six-year hiatus in diplomatic relations.

Yuval Rotem will head the three-day Israeli delegation to Turkey, where they will meet with Turkish officials across government agencies, Israeli embassy staff and Jewish community representatives.

A statement from the Foreign Ministry said that the visit aims to “continue developing bilateral ties and strengthen cooperation on the political, economic and cultural spheres”.

It said that “the political dialogue sends a positive message on the commitment of both sides to deepen the relationship between the two countries” and added that the talks will “allow for comprehensive discussion, after six years of…challenges, on the drastic changes in the region”.

Diplomatic ties between Israel and Turkey were cut following the Mavi Marmara incident in 2010, during which ten Turkish citizens were killed on a Gaza-bound protest ship attempting to prevent Israeli commandos from boarding the vessel.

In June last year, Israel and Turkey agreed a reconciliation deal to restore diplomatic relations and bilateral arrangements. Israel agreed to pay compensation to the families and allow Turkish aid and infrastructure projects in the Gaza Strip. In return, Turkey agreed not to allow its borders to be used as a safe haven for terror groups such as Hamas.

Last month, Eitan Na’eh became Israel’s first Ambassador to Turkey in several years and was welcomed by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the Presidential Palace in Ankara. Turkey’s new envoy to Israel, Kemal Okem, also took up his new post last month, marking the return to full diplomatic ties between the two countries.