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October 26, 2022 4:16 pm

Israel’s Gantz Lands in Ankara to Meet Turkish Defense Minister in Sign of Warming Ties

avatar by Sharon Wrobel

Pic caption: Israel’s Defense Minister Benny Gantz lands in Ankara ahead of meeting with Turkish counterpart. Credit: Elad Malka/IMOD

Israel’s Defense Minister Benny Gantz departed Wednesday for an official one-day visit to Turkey, the first by an Israeli defense minister to the country in over a decade.

“I am taking off for an important visit to the Republic of Turkey,” Gantz said. “I look forward to productive discussions on ways to promote security, stability and peace in the Middle East and East-Med regions.”

On Thursday, an honor guard ceremony will be held to welcome Gantz before a meeting with his counterpart Hulusi Akar at the Turkish Ministry of National Defense in Ankara. The purpose of Gantz’s trip to Turkey less than a week before Israeli elections is to pave the ground for the potential resumption of defense ties between the two countries as part of a process to normalize relations, which started over a year ago.

Gantz’s visit follows more than a year of rapprochement and months of improved relations between Israel and Turkey after more than a decade of tensions. The efforts culminated in August with the announcement that Turkey and Israel decided to normalize ties with the re-appointment of their respective ambassadors and an aviation agreement to renew flights by Israeli airlines.

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A month ago, Dror Shalom, director of the defense ministry’s Political-Military Bureau, met Turkish defense officials to “reopen channels for defense ties between the countries,” the ministry said.

Israel-Turkey relations had remained tense since the 2010 Mavi Marmara flotilla incident, which saw the death of 10 Turkish activists aboard a ship attempting to breach the Israeli-Egyptian blockade of Gaza, and since another rupture in 2018 after the US moved its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

According to Hay Eytan Cohen Yanarocak, a researcher at both the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security and the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, Gantz’s visit will focus on establishing mutual trust in relations between Turkey and Israel.

Gantz will be accompanied by the ministry’s Director General Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Amir Eshel, Military Secretary B.G. Yaki Dolf, and other defense officials.

In early October, Gantz paid an official visit to Azerbaijan to talk to his counterpart about security and policy issues in a bid to foster defense cooperation between the two countries amid the growing security threat from Iran. Gantz also discussed Israel’s developing ties with Turkey, according a statement by the defense ministry.

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