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Turkey's ambassador to Israel Sakir Ozkan Torunlar (right), presents his credentials to Israeli President Isaac Herzog, in Jerusalem, on January 11, 2023. Image Credit: AFP

JERUSALEM: Israeli President Isaac Herzog on Wednesday invited his Turkish counterpart President Tayyip Erdogan to visit the country as he received Ankara’s new ambassador in another token of the countries’ recently warming ties.

Turkey’s ambassador to Israel, Sakir Ozkan Torunlar, presented his credentials to Herzog.

Relations were frozen in 2010 after a deadly Israeli raid on the Turkish Mavi Marmara ship, part of a flotilla carrying humanitarian aid that was trying to breach a blockade on the Palestinian Gaza Strip.

“Today we complete another important step, reaching another milestone in the strengthening of our relations and deepening of the friendship between Turkey and Israel,” Herzog said following the ceremony.

Bilateral relations began to fray following an Israeli military operation in Gaza in 2008 and deteriorated sharply after the 2010 maritime incident that claimed the lives of 10 civilians.

A brief reconciliation from 2016 ended two years later when Turkey withdrew its ambassador and expelled Israel’s over the killing of Palestinians in Gaza.

Following months of talks including a visit by Herzog to Turkey last March, the two countries announced in August the full restoration of relations and the return of ambassadors.

Ties are now “on a very encouraging trajectory,” said Herzog.

Last month, Israel’s new ambassador to Turkey, Irit Lillian, presented her credentials to Erdogan.

Wednesday’s ceremony came just weeks after Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu formed a new government, returning to office after his previous reign as prime minister from 2009 to 2021.

Despite past tensions between them, Erdogan congratulated Netanyahu on his victory in the November general election.

But Ankara has already criticised Netanyahu’s new ruling coalition, slamming as “provocative” a visit to Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa mosque compound by National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir this month.

The decision by the extreme-right minister to visit the sensitive site, which is known to Jews as the Temple Mount, drew broad international condemnation.