Israel's Benny Gantz to visit Turkey to restore security ties

Defence minister's trip to Ankara the first such visit in a decade

Benny Gantz, Israel's defence minister, delivers a speech in Tel Aviv. Bloomberg
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Israel and Turkey are expected to restore security ties when Defence Minister Benny Gantz visits Ankara, the latest step in a thawing of relations between the two countries.

Mr Gantz on Wednesday announced his departure for Turkey, where he will meet Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar.

It is the first visit to the country by an Israeli defence minister in a decade.

“I look forward to productive discussions on ways to promote security, stability and peace in the Middle East and East-Med [Eastern Mediterranean] regions,” Mr Gantz said.

Mr Akar has yet to comment on the visit.

Israel-Turkey relations have begun to warm after years of strained ties, weakened by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's strong support of the Palestinian cause.

Diplomatic relations hit an all-time low in 2010 when Israeli commandos killed nine Turkish activists aboard a ship attempting to break a blockade on Gaza.

In 2018, Ankara withdrew its ambassador in protest against the killing of dozens of Palestinians by Israeli soldiers in protests along the Gaza border.

Among topics on the agenda is Turkey's hosting of senior Hamas officials, security sources told Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

“This is a process that will take time and trust needs to be established, but the impression is that the other side is excited as well,” the sources said.

Israel is “not closing the door” on ties with Turkey despite Mr Akar's voting base being “hostile to Israel”, a senior official told public broadcaster Kan.

The official said “frustration” with Iran has also prompted discussions between the two sides.

President Isaac Herzog met Mr Erdogan in Ankara in March, the first state visit by an Israeli head of state to Turkey in 14 years. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu then travelled to Israel in May, meeting Prime Minister Yair Lapid.

Full diplomatic ties between Israel and Turkey were restored in August. Israel's ambassador to Ankara was appointed the following month.

Updated: October 26, 2022, 5:47 PM