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Turkey mends fences with Israel and Russia in foreign policy reset

Turkey announced the restoration of diplomatic ties with Israel on Monday after a six-year rupture and expressed regret to Russia over the downing of a warplane, seeking to mend strained alliances and ease a sense of isolation on the world stage.



Istanbul: Turkey announced the restoration of diplomatic ties with Israel on Monday after a six-year rupture and expressed regret to Russia over the downing of a warplane, seeking to mend strained alliances and ease a sense of isolation on the world stage.

The deal with Israel after years of negotiation was a rare rapprochement in the divided Middle East, driven by the prospect of lucrative Mediterranean gas deals as well as mutual fears over growing security risks.

"With this agreement, economic relations will start to improve," Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said of the deal with Israel, echoing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said it would have "immense implications" for Israel`s economy.

In his comments following a dinner to break the fast in the holy month of Ramadan, Erdogan also said Turkey aimed for a quick normalisation of ties with Moscow.

"I believe we will normalise our relations with Russia rapidly by ending the existing situation which is not in the interest of both sides," he said.

The Kremlin earlier said Erdogan had apologised to Vladimir Putin over last year`s shooting down of a Russian air force jet by Turkey`s military, opening the way for Russia to lift economic sanctions.

A spokesman for Erdogan, Ibrahim Kalin, confirmed a letter was sent to Putin, though he did not refer explicitly to an apology, something Turkish officials had long ruled out. Kalin said Erdogan had expressed regret and asked the family of the pilot to "excuse us."

The moves come as a new Turkish government packed with Erdogan allies re-evaluates its foreign policy. Ankara has seen relations strained not only with Israel and Russia, but also with the United States and European Union in recent months.

Turkey`s worst nightmare in Syria has come true: Russian support has enabled its enemy President Bashar al-Assad to remain in power, while Kurdish militia fighters have benefited from U.S. support as they battle Islamic State, bolstering their position in territory adjacent to the Turkish border.

Days after taking office last month, new Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said Turkey needed to "increase its friends and decrease its enemies", in what appeared a tacit admission that his predecessor`s policies had left the NATO member isolated.

"It seems to me Turkey is undertaking a reprioritisation of foreign policy," said Brenda Shaffer, a visiting professor at Georgetown University and a fellow at the Atlantic Council.

"In both of these cases, it is practical realpolitik overriding ideological considerations. There were never any bilateral disputes between Turkey and Israel, just the opposite, there were only mutual interests. The same is true for Russia."

Turkey and Israel will exchange ambassadors as soon as possible, Yildirim said on Monday.

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