Erdoğan names PM advisor Ökem as Turkey’s ambassador to Israel

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Turkey has appointed a foreign policy adviser to the prime minister as ambassador to Israel, cementing the normalization of diplomatic relations after a partial, six-year rupture, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Wednesday.

The deadly 2010 storming by Israeli commandos of a Turkish ship trying to break the naval blockade of Gaza prompted Ankara to expel the Israeli envoy and cease all military cooperation with Israel.

Israel and Turkey agreed in June to normalize ties after the Jewish state offered an apology for the raid, a payout of $20 million in compensation and permission for Turkish aid to reach Gaza through Israeli ports.

“We are appointing our prime minister’s (Binali Yıldırım) foreign affairs advisor Mr. Kemal Ökem as ambassador [to Israel],” Erdoğan said before leaving on a trip to Pakistan.

“I believe he started his job yesterday [Tuesday],” he added.

Israel also nominated a new ambassador to Turkey on Tuesday, with Eitan Naeh formally selected by an Israeli government committee.

Naeh is the current deputy chief of mission at the Israeli embassy in London.

The 2010 raid killed 10 Turkish activists, plunging relations to an all-time low, with Erdoğan on one occasion even accusing Israel of “keeping Hitler’s spirit alive.”

But the two sides are already working to bring cooperation back to former levels and are holding talks on an ambitious project to build a pipeline to pump Israeli gas to Turkey and Europe.

The state-run Anadolu news agency said Tuesday that Israeli and Turkish energy officials held their first working meeting on the project last week.

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