Steinitz set to fly to Turkey

Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz is set to visit Turkey later this week, in first Israeli visit to Turkey on the ministerial level in 6 years.


Minister Yuval Steinitz
Minister Yuval Steinitz
Flash 90

(AFP)- Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz will attend the World Energy Congress in Istanbul on Thursday, the Israeli embassy in Ankara said in a statement.

"This is the first visit at ministerial level in the past six years, and it is the result of the rapprochement agreed upon by the two countries," it said.

Steinitz was due to hold talks with his Turkish counterpart Berat Albayrak- son-in-law of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan - on the margins of the Istanbul summit.

The two men would discuss energy cooperation between the two countries, the embassy said.

At the congress, the Israeli minister is to deliver the opening remarks for an Atlantic Council panel titled "A New Landscape in the Eastern Mediterranean," the statement added.

After talks with the Turkish energy minister, Steinitz will hold a news conference.

The World Energy Congress got under way on Monday, with Russian President Vladimir Putin among those present.

Israel and Turkey signed a deal in June to restore ties, which hit an all-time low after the 2010 incident in which Israeli commandos were ambushed by armed mercenaries posing as peace activists. The commandos opened fire and killed nine of the attackers, after three soldiers had been brutalized and temporarily captured.

Nevertheless, Israel has paid Turkey $20 million in compensation for the incident.

In addition to the compensation, Israel also apologized and agreed to ease the blockade on the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.

The legal blockade remains in place, but Israel has allowed Turkish aid to reach Gaza through Israeli ports under the deal.

Turkey and Israel are now set to restore full diplomatic relations, including the exchange of ambassadors, who were pulled out in respective capitals after the flotilla incident.

Steinitz's office said he had met with Erdogan on the sidelines of a nuclear security conference in Washington in April, prior to the finalization of the deal normalizing ties.

The two discussed "exporting Israeli gas to Turkey and from there to Europe," a statement said.

Ankara has shown interest in energy cooperation with Israel to receive gas from its offshore natural gas fields that are currently in development.

The Israeli embassy called the visit an "expression of the great potential that exists in bilateral political and economic relations."