Israel and Turkey flags.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Turkey’s Foreign Ministry on Friday summoned Israel’s highest- ranking Israeli diplomat in Ankara to explain why a group of Turks was refused entry at Ben-Gurion Airport last week.
The meeting with the diplomat, Amira Oren, is scheduled to take place on Monday, an Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman said.
On Thursday, a group of nine Turks – including some journalists – traveling to Israel was detained at the airport, and after several hours of questioning, seven of them were refused entry and sent back.
The Foreign Ministry said that the seven Turks were deported for security reasons, and Reuters quoted an official from the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) as saying those denied entry were suspected of having links to Hamas.
“In light of a connection found between them and activists from the Hamas terrorist organization and the risk created by their entrance to Israel, it was decided not to let them in,” the official said.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry said Oren was summoned to “show our reaction to the treatment of our citizens and to receive an explanation.”
Israel has not had an ambassador in Ankara since 2011, when Turkey expelled Israel’s envoy in the wake of the Mavi Marmara incident, when nine Turks were killed after attacking Israeli commandos who interdicted the boat on its way to breaking the naval blockade of the Gaza Strip.
Turkey recalled its own ambassador immediately after the 2010 incident.
Thursday’s deportation took place just three days after Foreign Ministry director-general Dore Gold met in Rome with his Turkish counterpart, Feridun Sinirlioglu, to explore prospects of repairing ties after a Turkish election earlier this month weakened Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The fact that Gold held that meeting, rather than Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s envoy Joseph Ciechanover and National Security Adviser Yossi Cohen, apparently ruffled some feathers in Jerusalem, because the Prime Minister’s Office issued a statement Friday saying that Ciechanover and Cohen remained in charge of the negotiations with Turkey.
Cohen and Ciechanover headed the Israeli delegation that held talks in 2014 with a Turkish delegation headed by Sinirlioglu over the Mavi Marmara compensation payments and the reestablishment of ties.
The PMO issued a statement saying that Netanyahu spoke to Ciechanover and asked him to continue to lead the team negotiating with Turkey. Netanyahu, according to the statement, said he appreciated the work done so far by Cohen and Ciechanover, and wanted to clarify that they will continue to do deal with the matters relating to Turkey that Netanyahu “entrusted in their hands.”
Reuters contributed to this report.