Israel and Turkey renew full diplomatic relations and agree to reappoint respective ambassadors following years of tension over Palestine. Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid (L) and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu (R). Photo by STR/EPA-EFE.
Aug. 17 (UPI) -- Former rivals Israel and Turkey renewed full diplomatic relations Wednesday, after years of tension over Palestine, as the two countries agreed to reappoint their respective ambassadors.
"The resumption of relations with Turkey is an important asset for regional stability and very important economic news for the citizens of Israel," said Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid following a congratulatory phone conversation with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The reconciliation comes a year after relations between Turkey and Israel thawed with a rare state visit by Israeli President Isaac Herzog to Ankara in March and trips by their foreign ministers to both countries. It also comes four years after Turkey removed its ambassador to Israel in 2018, amid a deadly Israeli crackdown on protesters over the United States' decision to relocate its embassy to Jerusalem, and Israel recalled its ambassador from Ankara.
"This restoration of diplomatic relations is a continuation of the positive direction in the development of relations over the past year, since President Herzog's diplomatic visit to Ankara, and the reciprocal visits of the foreign ministers to Jerusalem and Ankara," according to a statement released by Lapid.
Both countries have agreed to exchange ambassadors and consuls general, but have not provided a timeline. The exchange will restore ties after years of tension over Palestine following Israel's 2008 military operation in the Gaza Strip, which killed 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis, and its 2010 raid that killed nine Turkish activists carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza. Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologized for the incident and paid Turkey $20 million.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters Wednesday that normalizing relations following years of tension include "mutually reappointing of ambassadors."
"We will continue to defend the rights of Palestine, Jerusalem and Gaza, and it's also important that we will be able to pass on our messages regarding this issue directly to Tel Aviv, at the ambassadorial level," Cavusoglu said.
Both countries are also expected to focus on economic and tourism ties, as Lapid and Erdogan agreed to restart Israeli flights to Turkey.
"I commend the renewal of full diplomatic relations with Turkey," Herzog tweeted Wednesday. It's "an important development that we've been leading for the past year, which will encourage greater economic relations, mutual tourism and friendship between Israeli and Turkish peoples."