Turkey’s new ambassador to Israel arrived over the weekend, six years after the previous Turkish envoy was recalled following the Mavi Marmara incident.
Kemal Okem was greeted on his arrival by Meron Reuben, head of protocol at Israel’s Foreign Ministry. He is expected to present his credentials later today to Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin. Okem previously served as a political advisor for Turkey’s Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım and has also been the deputy director-general for the Middle East at Turkey’s Foreign Ministry, where he headed the Israel desk.
Okem’s arrival follows Eitan Na’eh officially taking office as Israel’s new ambassador to Turkey last week. The exchange of envoys marks the implementation of a recent reconciliation agreement between Israel and Turkey and the return of full diplomatic relations between the two countries.
It ends a six-year hiatus in diplomatic ties following the Mavi Marmara incident, during which ten Turkish citizens were killed on a Gaza-bound protest ship, while attempting to prevent Israeli commandos from boarding the vessel. The previously warm relationship between the two countries was subsequently frozen.
Okem’s arrival in Israel coincided with a bomb blast outside an Istanbul football stadium killed 38 people. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the attack and expressed his condolences at yesterday’s cabinet meeting.
The Prime Minister also said that “the fight against terrorism must be mutual… in condemnation and in countermeasures” adding “this is what the State of Israel expects from all countries it is in contact with, including Turkey.” In a recent interview with Israel’s Channel Two, Turkey’s President Erdogan termed Hamas a political party and a “refugee movement born out nationalism”.
Netanyahu condemned the bombing at Cairo’s Coptic Christian Cathedral which killed 25 people. In a statement hesaid: “Israel shares in the grief of the families of the victims and of the Egyptian people. We must unite forces and fight terrorism together.”