BY DAILY SABAH
The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a written statement regarding the appointments of diplomats in foreign embassies.
“Currently working in Ankara, Irit Lillian has been appointed as Israel’s ambassador to Türkiye,” it said.
The statement stressed that these and other appointments are “subject to government approval.”
Career diplomat Lillian is believed to have played a crucial role in the normalization of ties between Türkiye and Israel.
She was already serving as Israel’s charge de affairs in Ankara, appointed to the post in February 2021 by former Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi. Lillian was the ambassador to Bulgaria from 2015 to 2019.
Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said last week that a new decree including the appointment of the ambassador to Tel Aviv was ready to be presented to the president.
Türkiye and Israel will mutually reappoint ambassadors, Çavuşoğlu had said before, marking a milestone in the two countries efforts to normalize ties.
“The steps we would take to normalize relations include mutually reappointing ambassadors. At the news conference we held with (Israeli Prime Minister Yair) Lapid in this hall, we made a statement that we started the work on the appointment of ambassadors.
“As a result of these efforts, such a positive step came from Israel. Of course, we, as Türkiye, have decided to appoint an ambassador to Israel, to Tel Aviv,” Çavuşoğlu told a news conference with his Kyrgyz counterpart Jeenbek Kulubaev.
The top diplomat said the process would begin after both the countries present the names of the ambassadors.
He also said that the decision to restore full diplomatic relations with Israel after a decade of tensions did not mean that Türkiye would abandon its support for the Palestinians.
“We are not giving up on the Palestinian cause,” Çavuşoğlu told reporters. “It is important for our messages to be conveyed directly through the ambassador (on the Palestinian issue).”
The two countries expelled ambassadors in 2018 over the killing of 60 Palestinians by Israeli forces during protests on the Gaza border against the opening of the U.S. Embassy in West Jerusalem.
The move, which comes as Israel has sought to improve ties with regional powers, was agreed upon two years after the so-called Abraham Accords which saw relations normalized between Israel, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Morocco.
In May, Çavuşoğlu became the first Turkish foreign minister to visit Israel in 15 years.
A visit to Türkiye by Israeli President Isaac Herzog in March, followed by visits by both foreign ministers, helped warm relations after more than a decade of tensions.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan described the fence-mending visit to Ankara by Herzog in March as “a turning point in our relations.”
The announcement follows months of bilateral efforts to mend ties that began to fray in 2008, following an Israeli military operation in Gaza.
Relations then froze after the deaths of 10 civilians following an Israeli raid on the Turkish Mavi Marmara ship, part of a flotilla trying to breach a blockade by carrying aid into Gaza in 2010.
A 2016 reconciliation agreement that saw the return of ambassadors all but collapsed in 2018-2019, when more than 200 Gazans were shot dead by Israeli forces during border protests.