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January 12, 2017 4:16 pm

Turkish Foreign Ministry Official: Ankara, Jerusalem to Enhance Trade, Tourism Cooperation, as Next Step in Reconciliation Process

avatar by Ruthie Blum

Turkish Ambassador to Israel Mekin Mustafa Kemal Okem, left, with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin. Photo: Twitter.

Turkish Ambassador to Israel Mekin Mustafa Kemal Okem, left, with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin. Photo: Twitter.

The deputy foreign ministers of Israel and Turkey will be meeting within the coming month to discuss moving forward with the rapprochement agreement and recent exchange of ambassadors, a Turkish Foreign Ministry official told the country’s secular liberal English-language paper Hurriyet Daily News on Wednesday.

According to the report, cooperation in the realms of economics and tourism will be the main focuses of the meeting, and discussions will be held about when more high-level visits will take place.

Turkey is taking part in a tourism fair in Israel on Feb. 7-8, with the possibility of the Turkish tourism and culture ministers attending. In addition, the report said, officials on both sides aim to update a free trade agreement between Jerusalem and Ankara.

“This is very important for us because the two countries are complementary to each other,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry official said. “In areas such as information, information, innovation, Israel has made significant progress. But they need to find markets for those products. In this respect, Turkey stands out as a very important partner in the region.”

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Israel and Turkey reportedly also intend to enhance security cooperation, relating to Syria in particular.

Israel’s relations with Turkey were severed in 2010, following the incident involving the “Free Gaza Flotilla,” which tried to break Israel’s naval blockade on the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. When Israeli commandos boarded the Mavi Marmara ship, Turkish activists became violent, throwing sailors overboard and taking out weapons. In the battle that ensued, 10 people were killed.

Just over six years later, as part of the reconciliation agreement signed on June 28, Israel issued an official apology and paid $20 million to the families of those killed and wounded.

Eitan Na’eh was appointed as Israel’s ambassador to Turkey last month, and Kemal Öktem became Turkey’s envoy to Israel.

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