Israeli Minister to Visit Turkey

JERUSALEM (AFP)–An Israeli minister said on Friday he was to travel to Turkey in the first such visit since Israel’s military offensive in Gaza at the turn of the year strained ties with Turkey.

“I hope my visit will contribute to improving relations between the two countries which are strategically crucial to Israel,” Trade and Industry Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer told Israeli radio.

A spokesman said Ben-Eliezer will travel to Turkey on Sunday at the head of a trade delegation and was expected to meet Turkish Defense Minister Vecdi Gönül on Monday.

Israel’s relations with Turkey, a key regional ally, took a downturn in January when Ankara launched an unprecedented barrage of criticism of the Jewish state over its devastating Gaza war.

In October, Turkey excluded Israel from joint military drills and said ties would continue to suffer unless Israel ends “the humanitarian tragedy” in Gaza and revives peace talks with the Palestinians.

But Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said earlier this month that Ankara was willing to oversee a new stage of indirect peace talks between Israel and Syria, resuming a mediation role it played until the Gaza war.

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