(Ilana Messika/TPS) The installation of Mekin Mustafa Kemal Ökem as Turkey’s ambassador to Israel Monday is another step of the reconciliation process between Israel and Turkey that began last summer when Prime Minister Netanyahu and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan agreed to mend ties after a six-year frost.
Erdoğan has been a frequent critic of Israel, and ties between Ankara and Jerusalem reached a nadir in June 2009 when 10 Turkish citizens died in a clash with IDF Navy Seals on board the Mavi Marmara ship during an attempt to break through Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip. Erdoğan recalled Turkey’s ambassador in protest, and expelled Israel’s representative to Turkey in response.
In accepting Ökem’s credentials, Israeli President Reuven (Ruby) Rivlin said, “Mr. Ambassador, today is an honor and a real moment in history. I want to express my appreciation to President Erdoğan, and I thank him again for Turkey’s help in fighting the fires across Israel last month.
“Our friendship goes back in history, and I hope that the reconciliation and the appointment of new ambassadors will open a new and promising page in this relationship. We must work together to promote our economic relations, trade and energy cooperation as a real engine of growth for our friendship,” Rivlin added.