Israel welcomes first ambassador from Turkey in five years

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin officially welcomed Mekin Mustafa Kemal Okem as Turkey’s first ambassador to Israel in five years, after receiving Okem’s credentials at his Jerusalem residence on Monday.

Relations between Israel and Turkey took a nosedive after nine Turkish nationals were killed during an IDF raid of the Mavi Marmara flotilla in May of 2010. The flotilla, which was heading to Gaza in an attempt to violate Israel’s blockade on the Strip, had a cache of weapons on board that included knives, smoke bombs, metal rods, hammers and clubs, which the anti-Israel activists had used to attack the IDF soldiers.

“This is a new beginning in bilateral relations and in our joint efforts in this region in which we have close ties, historical ties,” Okem stated Monday in Jerusalem.

The Turkish Ambassador envisioned a new era of bilateral cooperation between Israel and Turkey that would succeed in moving forward.

“Our region offers more than its share of challenges but also of big opportunities,” the ambassador continued. “As before, Turkey and Israel will work together to make sure that these opportunities are fully utilized and challenges are met.”

“As an ambassador, I will do my best to enhance our relations in every field regardless of any difficulties that we may face,” Okem added.  “We will be able to overcome together with our partner and friend Israel.”

President Rivlin also expressed a desire on his part to see Israel and Turkey move past prior tensions between the nations and to take hold of mutually beneficial opportunities in bilateral cooperation.

“I hope that the reconciliation and the appointment of new ambassadors will open a new and promising page in this relationship,” Rivlin said. “We must work together, to promote our economic relations, trade and energy cooperation as a real engine of growth for our friendship.”

Israel and Turkey are already working together towards an agreement over a proposed pipeline that would export natural gas to Turkey from Israel’s gas reservoirs off its Mediterranean coast.

By: Jonathan Benedek, World Israel News