No new envoys for Israel, Turkey

Nov. 6, 2013 at 7:14 AM
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JERUSALEM, Nov. 6 (UPI) -- Israel will not name a new ambassador to Turkey until Ankara indicates it will send an envoy in Tel Aviv, Israeli officials said.

Officials from Israel's Foreign Ministry responded to an article in the Turkish daily Today's Zaman that said Jerusalem had decided to name Rafi Schutz as the next envoy to Turkey, The Jerusalem Post reported Wednesday.

Schutz serves as the Foreign Ministry's deputy director general for Europe.

"We are not there yet," an Israeli official told the Post.

Officials also dismissed claims suggesting Jerusalem was trying to push Ankara into a corner by naming a new ambassador to show Turkey is the party not interested in normalizing ties, the newspaper said.

"There is no such thing as forcing an upgrade of ties. Downgrading relations can be done unilaterally, but upgrading the ties -- by definition -- is something that needs to be bilateral," an Israeli official said.

Turkey expelled Israel's ambassador in 2011 and recalled its envoy following the Mavi Marmara incident in May 2010 in which nine Turks were killed following an Israeli commando raid aboard the ship, which was trying to break the Gaza blockade.

In March at the request of U.S. President Barack Obama, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu apologized to Turkey for operational errors that led to the deaths of the Turkish nationals. Shortly after, the two countries were expected to exchange envoys, but nothing happened.

Talks to normalize relations began shortly after Netanyahu's apology but have been frozen since the summer.

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