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Israeli government officially appoints new ambassador to Turkey

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The Israeli government on Sunday approved the appointment of a new ambassador to Turkey after the position had been vacant since 2018 due to the deterioration of relations between the two countries, according to a statement from the Israeli prime minister on Sunday.

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid announced the news about the official appointment of Irit Lillian as Israel’s new ambassador to Ankara from his Twitter account on Sunday. Lapid described the appointment as “another important step in repairing relations with Turkey.”

Lillian has served as Israel’s chargé d’affaires in Ankara since Jan. 26, 2021. She was also ambassador to Bulgaria from 2015 to 2019.

Following Lapid’s announcement, Lillian tweeted that she was flattered by the government’s approval of her nomination.

“So much work to be done trying to put 🇮🇱 & 🇹🇷 back on their natural path of friendship – looking forwards for this beautiful, challenging journey,” the newly appointed ambassador tweeted.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry told then-Israeli Ambassador to Turkey Eitan Naeh to leave the country after Israeli forces killed 60 Palestinians during protests on the Gaza border over the opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem in May 2018.

Turkey was one of the most vocal critics of Israel’s response to the Gaza protests and of the US Embassy move, recalling its ambassadors from Tel Aviv and Washington at the time.

Following years of strained relations, Israel and Turkey announced the resumption of full diplomatic ties in August. The announcement followed months of bilateral efforts to repair the relationship, with reciprocal visits by top officials.

Bilateral relations began to fray in 2008, following an Israeli military operation in Gaza.

Relations then froze in 2010 after the death of 10 civilians following an Israeli raid on the Mavi Marmara, part of a Turkish flotilla trying to breach a blockade and carry aid into Gaza.

A 2016 reconciliation agreement that saw the return of ambassadors all but collapsed in 2018 in the wake of Gaza border clashes that killed dozens of Palestinians.

Turkey is also set to soon reappoint an ambassador to Tel-Aviv.

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