ahmet oguz celikkol turkey ambassador.
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"Both [Israel and Turkey] cooperate strategically - we must make the utmost of efforts to put the train of our friendship back on track," Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said at an event commemorating Turkey's National Day at the house of the Turkish ambassador in Kfar Shmaryahu in central Israel on Thursday afternoon.
Ben-Eliezer was the only senior government official at the event, which came fresh on the heels of a series of Turkish utterances strongly critical of Israel which threatened to cause a rift between the two countries.
Ben-Eliezer said it was a "great privilege to be here to today with good friends and to commemorate the 86th Republic Day of Turkey. I would also like to welcome Turkish Ambassador Ahmet Oguz Celikkol and wish you a successful and fruitful service in Israel." Celikkol took the post last week.
Hinting at Turkey's secular foundation and fears in Jerusalem that it was being eroded of late with the country drifting closer to Islamist regimes in the region, Ben-Eliezer reminded those assembled that "on October 29, 1923, the Turkish Constitution was made into law and the country became a republic. On this day we must remember [Mustafa Kemal] Ataturk, Turkey's great leader, a revolutionary statesman, the founder of the Turkish Republic as well as its first president."
Ben-Eliezer reminded those present at the event that Turkey was the second Muslim nation to recognize the State of Israel, in 1949. As a founding member of NATO, a regional power and a potential member of the European Union, Ben-Eliezer said, Turkey's ties with Israel are "very valuable."
He pointed out the partnership between the countries was based on similar democratic values, economic cooperation and political dialogue.
Ben-Eliezer said he would travel to Ankara next month for an economic conference, bringing with him a delegation of top executives from Israel's leading companies. "I believe that delegations like these can strengthen the friendship between the countries," he said.
Celikkol, speaking at an the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at the Bar Ilan University, said "I believe our relations are very important, but it's also important to understand our role in the world, and Turkey's impact on the region."
The ambassador's remarks seemed to echo those made by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday. Erdogan explained that Ankara was interested in "gaining friends" and that ties with Jerusalem would continue.
During an official visit to Teheran, Erdogan said Turkey's foreign policy "is based on gaining friends, not enemies," adding that relations with Israel "will be going on within the principle of justice and rightness."
Erdogan also reiterated Turkey's willingness to mediate peace talks between Syria and Israel.
The Turkish premier's statement in Teheran was a first conciliatory utterance after a long series of statements in which he had criticized Israel in the harshest terms.
On Monday, Erdogan accused Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman of threatening to attack the Gaza Strip with a nuclear weapon and also called Iran "Turkey's friend," in an interview published in The Guardian.