Israeli defense minister in Turkey to relaunch security cooperation
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz met his Turkish counterpart on Thursday to relaunch security cooperation between the countries.
Why it matters: It's the first visit by an Israeli defense minister to Turkey in a decade.
- The visit and the resumption of defense ties between the countries are another step in the process to normalize relations, which started more than a year ago.
What they're saying: “Moving forward, we must adopt a steady, positive approach in our relations – maintaining open dialogue. As agreed in our meetings, I have instructed my staff to begin the procedures required in order to resume working relations between the defense ministries," Gantz said in a statement after his meeting with his Turkish counterpart.
- He added that Israel has strong relations with Greece and Cyprus and called for pursuing diplomatic solutions to disputes in the regions.
- “In fact, we may form bridges and reduce conflicts, for the benefit of all parties involved," he said hinting at the latest tensions between Turkey and Greece.
Behind the scenes: During Gantz’s visit to Azerbaijan several weeks ago, President Ilham Aliyev and the Azerbaijani minister of defense said Israel should resume security cooperation with Turkey, Israeli officials said.
- The Israeli officials said Turkey and Israel are Azerbaijan’s top security partners and the government in Baku wanted to see its two allies working together.
- After the Baku visit, a senior Israeli ministry of defense official traveled to Ankara for talks and reached an agreement on renewing the dialogue between the two defense ministries, Israeli officials said.
- This paved the way for Gantz's visit to Ankara.
Between the lines: Ahead of the trip, Gantz spoke to his Greek counterpart and briefed him on the goal of the visit, Israeli officials said.
- Greek officials say they are very concerned by the escalating rhetoric and threats by Turkey against Greece in recent weeks. They expect Israel to send a message to Turkey about the need for de-escalation.
What to watch: Israeli defense officials said Gantz's visit and the relaunching of talks between the defense ministries are the first step and stressed the process will be gradual and slow.
- The officials noted that military-to-military cooperation is still suspended and so are weapon sales to Turkey. “This will take time," they said.
Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional details throughout.