'Big step' as Israeli ambassador presents credentials to Turkey

The diplomatic position has been vacant for four years

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan with Israel's ambassador to Ankara Irit Lillian at the Presidential Complex in the Turkish capital. AFP
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Israel's ambassador to Ankara, Irit Lillian, presented her credentials to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday in what Israeli President Isaac Herzog called a "big step" in relations between the two countries.

Israel's national anthem, the HaTikvah, was played at the ceremony.

"It was very impressive to hear the HaTikvah again at the presidency in Ankara," Mr Herzog wrote on Twitter.

"I look forward to accepting the Turkish ambassador's credentials soon. A big step in Israeli-Turkish relations," he said.

Ms Lillian, previously her country's charge d'affaires in Turkey, called Tuesday's events "very emotional".

"Looking forward to many more positive developments in the bilateral relations," she said.

The Turkish presidency's website also posted photos of Mr Erdogan and Ambassador Lillian.

In August, Turkey restored ties with the UAE and Saudi Arabia before announcing in November that it would appoint an ambassador to Israel.

The thawing of ties between Turkey and Israel comes four years after relations began to deteriorate in 2010 when Israeli marines stormed an aid ship to Gaza and 10 Turkish activists were killed.

Israel's former foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman said at the time that his country would not apologise for the incident, but Israel later paid compensation to the victims' families.

While bilateral ties were restored six years later, Turkey once again recalled its own officials from Israel and expelled Israeli diplomats when Israeli forces killed protesting Palestinians in Gaza.

Mr Erdogan congratulated Israel's prime minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu after winning elections on November 1. Mr Netanyahu is expected to present his ultranationalist right-wing government on Thursday.

Turkey was the first Muslim country to normalise relations with Israel a year after its creation in 1949.

Updated: December 28, 2022, 8:07 AM