Türkiye and Israel are two countries “with rich historical backgrounds and promising futures,” said Israel’s defense minister, adding that his country views Türkiye as “an important global actor.”
Speaking to reporters ahead of his departure late Thursday from Ankara, Benny Gantz expressed his satisfaction over his visit to Türkiye, thanking Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Defense Minister Hulusi Akar for the “warm welcome” he received.
Türkiye and Israel “manage many security challenges,” he noted.
Israeli Defense Minister Gantz said in Ankara that Israel and Turkey could together build mutually beneficial bridges and connections with Cyprus and Greece and reduce conflicts
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“The re-establishment of defense ties between our countries contributed to security and the stability of the Middle East, adding to the positive trends that we already see as a result of the Abraham Accords,” Gantz said, referring to normalization deals between Israel and several Arab states since fall 2020.
Saying that Israel and Türkiye have a “shared interest to maintain stability and security, and to ensure prosperity in the region,” Gantz argued that this also “requires a joint effort to fight terrorism.”
“In this regard, I would like to thank President Erdogan, Minister Akar, and the security agencies involved for the life-saving cooperation in tackling terrorist threats against Israeli citizens in the local Jewish community,” he added, referring to an incident this June when 10 Iranian suspects who were plotting attacks on Israeli tourists in Istanbul were taken into custody by Turkish intelligence and police teams.
Emphasizing that cooperation between Türkiye and Israel “is critical for both countries,” Gantz said he has instructed his team to “begin the procedure required to reestablish working relations.”
“We will progress our ties in a steady manner and maintain an open dialogue. Israel views the Republic of Türkiye as an important global actor, with great potential to expand our ties in the economic fields and now also in the defense area, and to make any possible effort to ensure and promote stability in the entire region,” he said.
Asked by Anadolu Agency about challenges in bilateral ties, Gantz said the two countries still have “some different approaches” on some issues.
“Unfortunately, during the last decade, our relations were still formally active but not too flourishing, mainly on the backgrounds of disputes on the Palestinian issue,” he said, adding that his country is worried about its security needs.
“But also with the Palestinian (issue), we do understand the need and the support Palestinians would like to get, definitely on the economic and humanitarian issue,” he added.
Read more: Israel not interested in peaceful solution of Palestine: Abbas
Saying that Türkiye and Israel will figure out ways to overcome such differences while “re-promoting” bilateral ties, Gantz also stressed that it is important to remember the developments that took place in the Middle East over the last decade.
On the more than decade-long Syrian civil war, he said the issue may be in the “same geographical place, but it is definitely not the same geopolitical place.”
On his country’s difficulties with Iran, he said Tehran is working to “destabilize” the region.
Israeli officials generally refrain from commenting on attacks on Syrian territory.
Israel has been sporadically carrying out attacks against Iranian-backed groups in Syria and Syrian military points since 2011 when the civil war began after the Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protesters.
Gantz also described his visit to Türkiye as the first “state-level security meeting which opens the gate and shows directions for potential cooperation in the future.”
Adding that they did not discuss specific defense projects, Gantz said joint defense industry projects may be addressed in future talks.
With elections nearing in Israel, Gantz expressed hope that this will be the last election in Israel for a while and that it will lead to the formation of a stable government.
“From my perspective, regardless of what government will happen in Israel, their bilateral challenges and interests will still be the same,” he said.
Greece, fighter jets
Asked about the cancelation of a recently scheduled visit to Greece, Gantz said it was due to “technical, security issues.”
While hailing ties with Athens, he also expressed hope for Türkiye and Greece to continue dialogue to maintain stability.
He also said Israel has yet to decide on selling its Iron Dome air defense system to the Greek Cypriot administration.
“I am not getting into the details of different industrial projects with different places. But we will see in the future,” he added.
Gantz also said the issue of the US selling F-35 fighter jets to Türkiye was not discussed during his visit, as it is a bilateral matter between Ankara and Washington.
His response came after a reporter asked about reports of Israeli officials lobbying Washington to drop Türkiye from the F-35 program as part of Israel’s efforts to preserve its military qualitative edge in the region.
Read more: Turkish Minister: Process to acquire F-16s from US still ongoing
Türkiye has protested its 2019 suspension, saying that its purchase of Russian S-400 air defense did not endanger the fighter jet systems, contrary to US assertions, and repeatedly proposed a commission to study and clarify the issue.rkiye now is working to buy the latest version of the F-16 fighter jets from the US, as well as modernization kits for its older F-16s.
Anadolu story with additional input by Global Village Space news desk.