Benny Gantz to meet Hulusi Akar in Turkey to strengthen Israel’s security ties in the region

The visit will be the first by an Israeli Defence Minister to Turkey in more than a decade

Israel’s Defence Minister Benny Gantz is scheduled to travel to Ankara on Wednesday to meet his Turkish counterpart, Hulusi Akar. After several months of rapprochement, the two countries are poised to forge closer military ties.

While details of the agenda and issues to be raised during the visit are not yet available, the two ministers are likely to address the situation between Armenia and Azerbaijan, which is militarily backed by both Turkey and Israel. Gantz and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have both recently visited Baku. In the case of the Israeli minister, the trip served to discuss military cooperation, highlighting the “strategic relations” between the two countries, while Erdogan supported Azerbaijani sovereignty over Nagorno-Karabakh.

The visit comes two months after the head of the Defence Ministry’s Political and Military Relations Bureau, Dror Shalom, travelled to Turkey with the aim of “reopening channels for defence ties between the countries”, the ministry said in a statement. “During the meetings, the parties agreed on the issues to be discussed by the ministers,” the statement added. 

With this visit to Turkey, the first by an Israeli Defence Minister in more than a decade, the two countries continue to move closer together after years of tension and disagreements.

Israeli President Isaac Herzog laid the foundations for this rapprochement and initiated a new stage between the two countries with his trip to Ankara in March. Through this visit, described by Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan as a ‘turning point’, Herzog became the first Israeli president to visit the Eurasian country in 14 years.

Turkish Presidential Press Service/Mustafa KAMACI

Following this historic meeting between Herzog and Erdogan, Jerusalem and Ankara continued to strengthen ties. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu visited Israel in May, where he met with Yair Lapid, then head of Israeli diplomacy. In order to strengthen regional alliances, Cavusoglu discussed cooperation with Israel in various sectors, including energy.

Nevertheless, both nations are willing to open a new chapter in their relations, leaving behind the tensions of the past with the aim of strengthening regional stability. 

Recently, the two nations have decided to re-establish diplomatic relations. In fact, Israel has already appointed Irit Lillian as ambassador to Turkey. The diplomat held the post of chargé d’affaires in Ankara for the past few years. In 2018 Turkey recalled its ambassador to Tel Aviv after the killing of 60 Palestinians during protests on the border with the Gaza Strip against the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem. In response, Israel also withdrew its ambassador to Ankara.

​Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and then Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid

The current rapprochement was highlighted by the first meeting between the Israeli and Turkish heads of government last September on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. Lapid and Erdogan met for the first time to discuss counter-terrorism, economic and energy partnership and regional developments, according to a statement from the Israeli Prime Minister’s office.

During this phase of rapprochement, Israel and Turkey have also reached agreements. In July, the two countries signed a treaty allowing Israeli airlines to resume operations in Turkey. Moreover, in addition to trade, Jerusalem and Ankara have boosted security cooperation. Joint coordination led to the arrest of several Iranians suspected of planning attacks against Israeli tourists in Istanbul last June.


Arab Observer

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