Israeli Airlines to Resume Flights to Turkey After More Than Five-year Freeze

Ankara agrees to comply with Israel's security demands, ending lockout of Israeli airlines from market.

More than five years after flights by Israeli airlines to Turkey stopped, Israel signed an agreement with Ankara to renew service.

Civil Aviation Authority director Giora Romm his Turkish counterpart, Bilal Eksi, struck the deal after talks that took place in Turkey, Haaretz has learned. The sides agreed to address Israel's security concerns which were cited as the reason flights were ceased.

El Al had halted flights to Turkey three years earlier, in March 2007, after authorities there refused to comply with Israel’s security demands, effectively locking out Israeli airlines from the market.

Relations between the countries soured following Israel's raid on the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish ship seeking to break the Israeli blockade on Gaza. The Turkish ship had been carrying humanitarian aid but Israel said it posed a security risk and sent forces to board the vessel in a raid that killed nine activists

A month after that incident, El Al nnounced that it would not implement the code-sharing agreement on the Tel Aviv-Istanbul route it signed with Turkey's Atlas Jet airline.

Turkish flights to Israel never stopped because Israel held up its end of the aviation agreement.

Israel's airlines have lashed out at the continued rise in flights by Turkish companies to Israel, while the Israeli companies El Al, Arkia and Israir were prevented from flying to Turkey.

El Al CEO Eliezer Shkedi recently appealed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, asking him to intervene personally addressed the asymmetry.

According to data of the Israeli Airports Authority, Turkish Airlines became in November 2013 the second-largest company in terms of the number of passengers carried to and from Israel. El Al is in first place.

AP