Turkey hires career diplomat as new ambassador to Israel

Ankara on Thursday appointed veteran career diplomat Sakir Ozkan Torunlar as Turkey’s new ambassador to Israel, filling the post that has been vacant for nearly five years due to a series of political wrangles between the two countries.

Torunlar, who was appointed to the post by presidential decree, has been a career diplomat for almost 40 years and has worked in several countries, including Greece, India and the United Kingdom.

Torunlar’s appointment also reflects the Turkish government’s sensitivity to the Palestinian conflict, as the diplomat also served as Turkey’s ambassador to Palestine in 2013 following the United Nations General Assembly’s vote granting Palestine the “status of non-member state” while he was Turkish Consul General in Jerusalem. .

During his tenure there, the diplomat was awarded the Order of the Star of Jerusalem by Palestine.

Torunlar, who speaks French and English, previously served as Turkey’s ambassador to India, Bhutan, the Maldives and Nepal.

The move came after a series of rapid rapprochement steps between the two countries after years of locking horns and as part of Ankara’s efforts to mend ties with former regional rivals including Saudi Arabia, the United States. United Arab Emirates and Egypt.

The first thaw in the deep freeze between Turkey and Israel came after a phone call between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Israeli counterpart, Isaac Herzog, which followed a state visit by the Israeli president to Turkey last year. . The main Israeli and Turkish foreign ministers also paid reciprocal visits to each other’s countries.

Besides Israel, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also visited Ramallah as part of his trip in May.

In August, Erdogan and Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid decided to fully restore diplomatic relations. At the end of September, Israel appointed Irit Lillian, the country’s charge d’affaires in Ankara since the beginning of 2021 and a career diplomat, as its new ambassador.

The two ambassadors are now awaiting approval from their host capitals before submitting their credentials.