Israel’s Gantz seeks ‘steady approach’ on Turkey relations

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Israel’s defense minister met with his Turkish counterpart on Thursday, making the first visit by a top Israeli defense official to Turkey in more than a decade, as the two countries take steps to normalize their strained ties.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar welcomed Benny Gantz in the Turkish capital Ankara with a military ceremony, before the two held face-to-face talks and then chaired meetings between their countries’ delegations, the Turkish defense ministry said.

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Gantz stated that moving forward the two countries aim for “a steady, positive approach” in their relations driven by “maintaining open dialogue.”

“This year, as a result of close, covert contact, we succeeded in removing an alarming number of threats against Israeli citizens and Jewish people in Turkey,” Gantz said.

Turkey and Israel were once close regional allies - with broad defense ties - but the relationship became more and more strained under Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s rule.

The Turkish leader has been an outspoken critic of Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians while Israel has objected to Turkey’s ties to the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip.

Relations broke down in 2010, after Israeli forces stormed a Gaza-bound flotilla carrying humanitarian aid for Palestinians that broke an Israeli blockade.

The incident resulted in the deaths of nine Turkish activists and the countries withdrew their respective ambassadors.

Following an attempt at mending ties, Turkey again recalled its ambassador in 2018 after the United States moved its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

Relations began to thaw after the departure of former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

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