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Israel’s Gantz relaunches defense ties with Turkey

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Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Thursday heralded a new era in his country’s security ties with Turkey after a decade-long rupture, marked by a whirlwind visit to Ankara, Agence France-Presse reported.

Gantz’s one-day trip to the NATO member came two months after Israel and Turkey renewed diplomatic ties.

“For over a decade there were no formal security ties,” Gantz said, following meetings with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Defense Minister Hulusi Akar.

“Today we’re changing that, in a responsible and gradual process that serves Israel’s interests.”

Turkey in 1949 became the first Muslim-majority nation to recognize Israel.

But ties soured under Erdoğan, who has moved away from his country’s secularism since he became leader in 2003. Bilateral relations began to fray in 2008, following an Israeli military operation in Gaza.

Relations then froze in 2010 after the deaths of 10 civilians following an Israeli raid on the Turkish Mavi Marmara ship, part of a flotilla trying to breach a blockade by carrying aid into the Gaza enclave.

A brief reconciliation lasted from 2016 until 2018, when Turkey withdrew its ambassador and expelled Israel’s over the killing of Palestinians during a conflict with Gaza.

Following months of diplomatic warming, Israel and Turkey announced on August 17 the full restoration of relations and the return of ambassadors to both countries.

‘Find solutions’

Erdoğan has meanwhile maintained relations with Hamas, the Islamist movement that controls the densely populated Gaza Strip.

Akar, Turkey’s defense minister, said that closer ties would help “find solutions to some current topics we think differently” about, including Palestine.

“We believe that the development of our relations and cooperation with Israel will also contribute to regional peace and stability,” Akar said.

Addressing the presence of the militant Palestinian movement on Turkish soil, Gantz said “the issue came up on our talks” and that Israel was constantly engaged with Turkish security organizations.

“This is the first strategic security meeting after many years, you can’t take too big a bite out of what you bring into one meeting,” he said.

Gantz said he believed “a lot more can be done together in order to reduce the influence of those who destabilize our regions by supporting or conducting terrorism against innocent civilians.”

“This also applies to the Palestinian arena,” the Israeli minister said.

Gantz also met with Erdoğan, where they discussed “strategic issues and reiterated their commitment to promoting stability, prosperity and security in the Middle East and East-Med Regions,” a statement from Gantz’s office said.

The visit came less than a week before a general Israeli election, the fifth in less than four years, with Gantz hoping to see his centrist National Unity faction remain a central player in a future coalition.

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