Former Israeli ambassador to Turkey says Erdogan wants normalisation

Former Israeli ambassador Pini Avivi suggested that Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan should be taken seriously on any intent to normalise relations with Israel, Israel Hayom reported. 

Avivi, who served in Ankara from 2003 to 2007, said that the fact Erdogan would be seeking to restore relations was unsurprising given some shared security interests such as Iran in Syria. The ambassador saw it as notable that the Turkish leader would however state his interest aloud is significant as an indicator of sincere interest on his part. 

"If he speaks, then he means what he's saying. Beyond that, I think the Arab countries that moved toward normalization with Israel also affected him, along with the issue of the American sanctions," said Avivi. 

In the last several months, Israel has begun new relations with four Arab countries: Morocco, Sudan, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, Turkey’s main regional foe. These deals were supported by the Trump administration as well as President-elect Joe Biden who is set to enter office in the next month. 

There has been a number reports that Turkish officials, including intelligence chief Hakan Fidan, met with Israeli counterparts to discuss renewing diplomatic ties. Turkey has reportedly considered sending a new ambassador Ufuk Ulutas to Tel Aviv after leaving the position vacant for the last two years. Azerbaijan, a shared partner with Israel, is said to be involved in trying to restore the relationship between the two. 

On December 25, Erdogan told reporters that he would like to see relations with Israel improve but that Palestine “remained a red line” for him while blaming Israeli leaders for the decline in bilateral relations. 

Turkey was the first country in the Muslim world to recognise Israel in 1949 and relations were close for decades. These deteriorated in 2010 when Israeli killed several Turkish activists trying to enter the Gaza Strip by sea in the Mavi Mamara incident. After a brief warming of relations following efforts by the United States to restore their ties, both sides withdrew their ambassadors following Erdogan’s condemnation of the U.S moving its embassy to Jerusalem in 2018.