Ben-Eliezer: We Stopped Snowballing Israel-Turkey Tensions

Tensions flared between the allies after Israel launched Operation Cast Lead in Gaza last winter.

Industry, Labor and Trade Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer on Tuesday said that his visit to Turkey achieved its goal of warming ties between the two countries and that the government must now do more to encourage better diplomacy.

"The visit achieved its purpose," said Ben-Eliezer at the end of his official visit. "We stopped the snowball with regard to our relations with Turkey. When we are told that business is getting back to normal, it means the goal was achieved. I succeeded in bringing things back to proportion."

Tensions had flared between the two countries in September after Turkey banned Israel from participating in a NATO air force drill. Ankara further strained relations when it refused to take off the air a television drama depicting Israeli soldiers killing Palestinian children.

Ben-Eliezer on Monday urged Turkey to resume its role as mediator in peace negotiations between Israel and Syria, a day after Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Ankara's impartiality had been canceled out by its "insults and tongue-lashing against Israel."

Turkey's foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, later confirmed that Israel had requested that his country resume mediating the talks.

Ben-Eliezer added that he would be returning to Israel with a message to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak that they must do more to help better relations with Turkey and continue contact with Turkish officials.

Turkish Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul said he plans to invite Barak for an official visit in the near future.

Ben-Eliezer also said that six of the 10 drones Israel agreed to deliver to Turkey in a deal that was delayed are finally ready.

Technical problems leading to a two-year delay of 10 Heron-type drones, have finally been resolved, according to media reports published this week.

Turkey signed the $180 million deal to purchase the Herons from Israel Aerospace Industries and Elbit several years ago. Israeli media reported that Turkey was considering scrapping the deal when Israel failed to meet production deadlines.

The Turkish deputy prime minister, Bulent Arinc, said on Monday that Turkey-Israel relations must improve, during a meeting in Ankara with Ben-Eliezer.

"The diplomatic relations between the two countries have known ups and downs, but they must stabilize," said Arinc, adding that the ties must improve with regard to "every issue."