Gantz gets warm welcome in Turkey, launches ‘working relations’

“As agreed in our meetings, I have instructed my staff to begin the procedures required in order to resume working relations,” Gantz said.

By World Israel News Staff

Defense Minister Benny Gantz arrived in Turkey on Wednesday, marking the first official visit to Ankara by an Israeli defense chief in more than a decade.

Gantz met with his Turkish counterpart, Hulusi Akar, on Thursday morning and was scheduled to meet later in the afternoon with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“We are thankful to Turkey for the crucial, life-saving cooperation [earlier this year], Gantz stated at a joint press conference with Akar.

“As agreed in our meetings, I have instructed my staff to begin the procedures required in order to resume working relations,” he said.

Gantz paid his respects at the Anıtkabir mausoleum in commemoration of former President Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founding father of the Republic of Turkey. He was then welcomed at the Ministry of National Defense with a formal ceremony before meeting with Akar.

In August, Israel and Turkey announced that they had restored full diplomatic relations.

That month also saw Dror Shalom, head of the Defense Ministry’s Political and Military Relations Bureau, travelling to Turkey with the aim of “reopening channels for defense ties between the countries,” the ministry said.

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“During the meetings, the parties agreed on the issues to be discussed by the ministers,” the statement added.

Hebrew-language media on Wednesday night cited an Israeli defense official as saying that any arms deals were unlikely.

“A race to procure [weapons] is not likely to happen,” the official told the Walla news site, citing Israel’s ties with Turkey’s hostile neighbors, Cyprus and Greece. “We are treading very, very cautiously and have made that clear ahead of [Gantz’s] visit.”

Ankara and Jerusalem announced they would restore full diplomatic ties 12 years after they were partially severed in the wake of the Mavi Marmara incident in which a group of activists from a Turkish terror organization breached the naval blockade of Gaza.

“The resumption of relations with Turkey is an important asset for regional stability and very important economic news for the citizens of Israel. We will continue to strengthen Israel’s standing in the world,” Prime Minister Lapid said in a statement at the time.

The rapprochement occurred after Ankara’s security apparatus thwarted a series of attacks by Istanbul-based Iranian terror cells.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also said last month said he plans to visit Israel, marking a departure from his well-documented hostility towards the Jewish state, which includes calling Israelis “child killing blood suckers.

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The two leaders met on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, marking the first such meeting since 2008.