Israeli, Turkish Ministers to Meet for First Time Since 2010 Flotilla Crisis

The meeting between the two countries' energy ministers in Istanbul was confirmed in recent days. Meanwhile, Israel and Turkey make progress toward appointing new ambassadors.

AP

Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz is expected to meet his Turkish counterpart, Berat Albayrak, in Istanbul on Thursday.This will be the first official public meeting between ministers from the two countries since the crisis over the Gaza-bound flotilla broke out in May 2010.

The two countries have reached a reconciliation deal in June, which is soon to be fully implemented.

Steinitz will travel to Istanbul on Thursday to take part in an international energy conference there. The two ministers' offices have been in touch over the past few weeks to coordinate the meeting. The Israeli Foreign Ministry and the embassy in Ankara helped facilitate the contacts.

In recent days Turkish media outlets quoted President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as saying that the energy ministers are to meet in the wake of the reconciliation agreement. The meeting was finally confirmed a few days ago after Israel completed the transfer of $20 million to the Turkish government for reparations to the families of those killed during the Israeli military raid on the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara flotilla in 2010.

Steinitz's office said that the meeting will deal with possible Israeli gas export to Turkey, as well as energy cooperation between the two countries. Steinitz had discussed potential natural gas cooperation with Erdogan on the sidelines of the international nuclear conference in Washington six months ago. 

The meeting between Steinitz and Albayrak is a significant step toward normalizing the ties between the two countries.

A senior Israeli official said that Turkey has recently taken another step toward implementing the reconciliation deal. According to the official, the Turkish Justice Ministry asked the country's courts two weeks ago to close all cases against Israeli officers involved in the raid on the Mavi Marmara. The Justice Ministry made clear to the courts that the Parliament has ratified the reconciliation agreement, which stipulates that all legal proceedings against Israelis linked to the raid are to be closed.

Israel and Turkey have also made progress toward appointing new ambassadors. According to reports in Turkish media, the foreign ministry in Ankara has decided to tap diplomat Kemal Okem as its envoy to Tel Aviv. The Israeli Foreign Ministry's appointment committee is expected to convene on October 27 to pick its envoy to Ankara.