Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz met in Istanbul Thursday with his
Turkish counterpart, the first time ministers of the two countries have met
since the Mavi Marmara incident in May 2010.
Peretz met with Turkish
Environment and Urbanization Minister Erdogan Bayraktar for some 40 minutes on
the sidelines of a UN-sponsored conference about Mediterranean marine and
coastal environment issues.
A spokesman for Peretz said the meeting was
Diplomatic officials, however, were hesitant about
saying whether this signaled a significant thawing in the frozen ties between
the two countries, with one official saying only that “our position remains that
we want to see a better relationship with Turkey.”
Peretz’s trip to
Turkey was, like all ministerial trips abroad, approved by the cabinet and
therefore had the approval of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
which once had a strategic relationship with Israel, withdrew its ambassador
from Tel Aviv after the Mavi Marmara incident when nine Turks were killed aboard
a ship stopped by the IDF that was trying to break the naval blockade of Gaza.
The IDF soldiers were met by violent resistance when they boarded the
In 2011 Turkey expelled Israel’s ambassador.
Bayraktar, Peretz – from Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua Party – addressed the conference
and said he hoped that in the near future it would be possible to bridge the
gaps between Israel and Turkey, saying that both Turkish and Israeli citizens
wanted that to happen.
Peretz said during his address that he believed in
a two-state solution, and that a way must be found to “break down walls and
strengthen the ties between us and our neighbors.”
The former defense
minister said he hoped that the agreement reached between the world powers and
Iran in Geneva would not have a negative impact on the Israeli- Palestinian
“The next five months are critical,” he said, referring to the
deadline set for both the Palestinian-Israel talks as well as for reaching a
comprehensive deal on Iran.