Israel returns ambassador to Turkiye

Daily Sabah
Israel returns ambassador to Turkiye

Israel has decided to appoint the Israeli charge d'affaires in Ankara Irit Lillian as the new ambassador to Türkiye as the two countries recently announced the full restoration of diplomatic ties following years of strained relations. The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a written statement regarding the appointments of diplomats in foreign embassies. "Currently working in Ankara, Irit Lillian has been appointed as Israel's ambassador to Türkiye," it said. The statement stressed that these and other appointments are "subject to government approval," Daily Sabah writes.

Career diplomat Lillian is believed to have played a crucial role in the normalization of ties between Türkiye and Israel. She was already serving as Israel's charge de affairs in Ankara, appointed to the post in February 2021 by former Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi. Lillian was the ambassador to Bulgaria from 2015 to 2019.

In August, Türkiye and Israel agreed to restore full diplomatic ties and reappoint ambassadors and consuls general after a four-year hiatus. Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said last week that a new decree including the appointment of the ambassador to Tel Aviv was ready to be presented to the president. Türkiye and Israel will mutually reappoint ambassadors, Çavuşoğlu had said before, marking a milestone in the two countries efforts to normalize ties.

"The steps we would take to normalize relations include mutually reappointing ambassadors. At the news conference we held with (Israeli Prime Minister Yair) Lapid in this hall, we made a statement that we started the work on the appointment of ambassadors. "As a result of these efforts, such a positive step came from Israel. Of course, we, as Türkiye, have decided to appoint an ambassador to Israel, to Tel Aviv," Çavuşoğlu told a news conference with his Kyrgyz counterpart Jeenbek Kulubaev. The top diplomat said the process would begin after both the countries present the names of the ambassadors.

In May, Çavuşoğlu became the first Turkish foreign minister to visit Israel in 15 years. A visit to Türkiye by Israeli President Isaac Herzog in March, followed by visits by both foreign ministers, helped warm relations after more than a decade of tensions. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan described the fence-mending visit to Ankara by Herzog in March as "a turning point in our relations."

The announcement follows months of bilateral efforts to mend ties that began to fray in 2008, following an Israeli military operation in Gaza. Relations then froze after the deaths of 10 civilians following an Israeli raid on the Turkish Mavi Marmara ship, part of a flotilla trying to breach a blockade by carrying aid into Gaza in 2010. A 2016 reconciliation agreement that saw the return of ambassadors all but collapsed in 2018-2019, when more than 200 Gazans were shot dead by Israeli forces during border protests.