Turkey, Israel wish to move on from years of tension

Israeli President Isaac Herzog will travel to Turkey at the invitation of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, marking the most senior Israeli visit to the country since 2008, as the regional adversaries strive to repair years of poor relations.

The following is a timeline of major events leading up to the talks:

In an attack on the Mavi Marmara ship, which was leading a flotilla transporting supplies to Gaza, Israeli commandos kill nine Turkish activists. They were executing a naval blockade of Palestinian areas controlled by Hamas. After years in a coma, a tenth activist injured in the tragedy died in 2014.

After the release of a UN report on the raid, Ankara downgrades Israel’s diplomatic presence in Turkey to second secretary level, effectively expelling Israeli ambassadors.

March 2013 – Israel’s then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologises to Turkey for errors that may have resulted in the deaths of protestors on the Mavi Marmara in a phone call orchestrated by US President Barack Obama.

Israel and Turkey establish a preliminary agreement in December 2015 to normalise relations, including the return of ambassadors.

June 2016 – The two countries sign a deal to re-establish relations after a six-year schism, formalising an arrangement that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon described as sending a “hopeful signal” for regional stability at the time.

Erdogan appoints a new ambassador to Israel in November 2016, mirroring an Israeli move and taking a step closer to normalising diplomatic relations.

– June 2017 According to Turkey’s finance minister, Israel has paid a total of $20 million in compensation to the families of the victims of the Israeli raid on the aid flotilla.

In a dispute over the killing by Israeli forces of 60 Palestinians during protests on the Gaza border over the opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem, Turkey and Israel expel each other’s senior diplomats in May 2018. Erdogan termed the carnage “genocide” and Israel a “terrorist state.”

December 2019 – Israel criticises a maritime boundary agreement struck by Libya and Turkey the previous month in the eastern Mediterranean. The following month, Israel, Greece, and Cyprus sign an agreement to build a pipeline to transport natural gas to Europe, a project that was first opposed by Turkey but later stopped.

November 2021: Turkey releases an Israeli couple who were detained for photographing Erdogan’s Istanbul apartment and suspected of spying, an accusation Israel denies. According to Bennett’s office, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett later spoke with Erdogan, marking the first time the two leaders have spoken since 2013.

Erdogan says Turkey and Israel can collaborate to transport Israeli natural gas to Europe in February 2022, and the two nations will discuss energy cooperation during discussions in March.

February 2022 – Ahead of Herzog’s arrival, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu declares that Turkey would not abandon its commitment to a Palestinian state in order to forge better ties with Israel.

During Herzog’s visit in March 2022, the presidents of Turkey and Israel are expected to explore ways to increase collaboration and assess bilateral ties.

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