Turkey tight-lipped on ambassador to Israel

November 04, 2013, Monday/ 18:19:00/ SİNEM CENGİZ

While Tel Aviv has made up its mind on who will be appointed as the Israeli ambassador to Turkey, Ankara is remaining tight-lipped on the appointment of a new ambassador to Israel, insisting first on the normalization of ties between two countries, which have been strained since the Mavi Mamara incident in 2010.

Israeli sources recently told a group of Turkish journalists in Jerusalem that Israel is looking to appoint an ambassador to Turkey as soon as possible, although Turkey still has not given any hint on who will be appointed as the Turkish envoy. According to Israeli sources, Tel Aviv is considering appointing Raphael Schutz to Ankara. Schutz is currently head of the European affairs department at the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Israeli sources added that Schutz would be posted after the two countries overcome some disagreements and agree on the mutual appointment of ambassadors.

Relations between Turkey and Israel -- countries that once enjoyed solid ties at all levels -- worsened in May 2010 and have remained strained since Israeli naval commandos stormed the Mavi Marmara, a humanitarian aid ship attempting to breach Israel's blockade of Gaza, killing eight Turkish civilians and one Turkish-American.

After the Mavi Marmara incident, Turkey downgraded ties with the Israeli state by withdrawing its ambassador and expelling the Israeli ambassador from Turkey.

Observers told Today's Zaman that the name of the new Turkish ambassador to Israel was known but that Ankara would not announce it until the very last moment of posting.

Ankara has said that it would not appoint an ambassador to Tel Aviv until the two countries agree on the compensation issue.

In order to end the major crisis in ties between the two former allies, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in March offered an apology to Turkey for the Mavi Marmara incident.

An apology was one of three demands Ankara made of Tel Aviv. The other two were compensation for the families of the activists killed on the ship and the lifting of the blockade on Gaza.

A senior Turkish diplomat who spoke to Today's Zaman on condition of anonymity stated that normalization of relations between the two countries would not be achieved unless both parties agree on a deal on compensation. “If relations are not normalized, the appointment of the ambassador will not be realized, either. There are some issues that need to be clarified. We will not make the name of the ambassador public unless we reach the point of appointing a new ambassador,” said the diplomat.

Analysts believe that Israel is trying to corner Turkey by announcing a name to be appointed to Ankara -- a move that aims to present Turkey as the party which has no will to normalize relations.


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