World News

Turkey names new ambassador to Israel in reciprocal move

ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan named a new ambassador to Israel on Wednesday, reciprocating a move by the Israelis a day earlier - steps towards restoring diplomatic ties between the once-close allies that broke down in 2010.

Israel and Turkey said in June they would normalise relations - a rapprochement driven by the prospect of lucrative Mediterranean gas deals as well as mutual fears over security risks in the Middle East.

“We are appointing as ambassador to Israel Kemal Okem, our prime minister’s foreign affairs adviser,” Erdogan told a news conference in Ankara before leaving on an official visit to Pakistan.

On Tuesday, the Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman said Eitan Na’eh, currently deputy ambassador in London, had been appointed ambassador in Ankara. It was not immediately announced when he would take up his post.

Israeli-Turkish relations broke down in 2010 when 10 Turkish pro-Palestinian activists were killed by Israeli commandos enforcing a naval blockade of the Gaza Strip. The soldiers had raided a ship, the Mavi Marmara, leading a flotilla to the Hamas Islamist-run Palestinian territory.

Israel agreed to pay out $20 million to the families of those killed on the vessel, a crucial element in the restoration of ties.

Reporting by Tulay Karadeniz; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by David Dolan