Senior Israeli official in rare trip to Turkey

Foreign Ministry official Aviv Shiran called his visit to Turkey a positive development in relations between the two countries.

Yaakov Levi,

Flash 90

Days after Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he thinks it would be possible to repair the strained ties between his country and Israel, an Israeli official made the first diplomatic visit to the country in years.

Aviv Shiran, Deputy Director for Western European Affairs in the Foreign Ministry, visited Turkey this week, meeting with Turkish parliamentarians and the mayor of Istanbul, a report in Turkish media said.

This is the first visit of a senior Israeli official to the country since 2010, the year of the Mavi Marmara incident, part of the Gaza flotilla, which claimed to be providing "humanitarian aid for the people of Gaza.” 

After it ignored repeated warnings to change course and dock at the Ashdod port, the IDF boarded the vessel - only to be attacked by Islamist extremists on board wielding knives and metal bars.

The wounded soldiers had no choice but to open fire, resulting in the deaths of ten. After an investigation, Israeli authorities discovered the vessel to be carrying no humanitarian aid - in fact, no aid supplies at all.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu later apologized to Erdogan, who was then Turkey’s Prime Minister, at the urging of the United States. The sides were supposed to enter talks on compensation for the victims of the Marmara, but those seem to have stalled.

Speaking to reporters in Istanbul, Shiran said he had discussed a number of issues with his Turkish interlocutors, including ways to revive the relationship between the two countries. In response to a question from a report as to whether the visit should be seen as a positive development in relations between the two countries, Shiran answered in the affirmative.

Reports earlier this year indicated that Israeli-Turkish relations are undergoing a normalization process, which has been sparked - at least in part - by changes in the Israeli Foreign Ministry.

Those reports said that the improving relations between the countries could lead to security cooperation between them regarding Syria - from which both countries can benefit.

Although diplomatic relations with Turkey deteriorated, trade between the two countries has only increased since 2010. In 2014, Israel and Turkey did some $5 billion in business, and that figure is set to be even higher this year, trade officials said.