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In Sign of Improved Relations, Israel Reopens Trade Office in Turkey

Israel reopened its economic and trade office in Turkey, as the countries work to restore diplomatic ties that have been strained in recent years. Business ties play a major role in relations between the two Middle Eastern countries, with billions of dollars in trade deals on the line.

Reopening the economic attaché’s office, according to Israel’s Economy and Industry Minister Orna Barbivay, “reflects Israel’s commitment to deepening economic ties with Turkey.”

Gad Shoshan, president of the Israel-Turkey Business Council and Chamber of Commerce, and director of International Sales and Marketing at ORMAT, a company that specializes in renewable energy, has been doing business in Turkey for nearly two decades. He told The Media Line that, despite the years of tension, the two countries have maintained strong trade relations.

“We have provided 43 power plants working on geothermal to Turkey, putting it in the top 10 countries that are generating clean electricity from geothermal,” Shoshan explained.

Turkey is the fourth-largest trading partner with Israel, with bilateral trade up 30% in 2021, reaching nearly $8 billion.

And many say the move will help more than 1,500 Israeli companies that are currently exporting to Turkey.

The appointment of an Israeli economic attaché to Turkey, Shoshan said, “is a very good, significant act not only for ORMAT but also for all the companies that are dealing with Turkey. Turkey is a very important country for trade to Israel and Israel is a very important trader with Turkey. There’s a win-win situation between the two countries.”

And in another sign of rapprochement, last month Israel and Turkey signed the outline of a civilian aviation agreement, set to replace the current accord dating back to 1951.

“Despite the fact that we have experienced, unfortunately, many deteriorations in the relations, the economic cooperation, the exports and imports are telling us an opposite story,” Dr. Hay Eytan Yanarocak, Turkey analyst at the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security (JISS), and at Tel Aviv University’s Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, told The Media Line.

The frosty diplomatic ties between Israel and Turkey are experiencing a major thaw. Relations between the two countries have repeatedly changed over the last decade, but a shift began taking place last year when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reached out to newly named Israeli President Isaac Herzog with a phone conversation last year, part of a nascent reconciliation process to repair ties.

Herzog visited Turkey in March, where he was given an elaborate reception.

Yanarocak explains that, for the relationship to move forward, both governments must maintain good diplomatic relations.

“The most important condition is we have to experience a crisis-less period. This is the name of the game,” he said.

Another sign that the two countries are working to put aside their differences came in May, when Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu met with his Israeli counterpart Yair Lapid in Jerusalem, the first visit by a senior Turkish official to Israel in 15 years.

The decision by Israel to reopen its trade office is a further sign of warming ties between the two countries, but its continuity hinges on the stability of the political relationship, and the commitment by the two countries to maintain strong ties. But for now, observers remain optimistic and the wheels appear to be in motion.