Turkey invites Israeli energy minister to Antalya forum in rare outreach
Turkey has sent an invitation to Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz to attend an international diplomacy conference hosted in Antalya in June, a Turkish official has confirmed to Middle East Eye.
The invitation, the first since relations between the countries broke down after Israeli forces killed 60 Palestinians in Gaza in 2018, was first reported by the Israeli media outlet Kaan on Wednesday night.
If Steinitz decides to attend the event, it would be the first such high-level visit to Turkey by an Israeli official in years.
The Antalya Diplomacy Forum, which is sponsored by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is a two-day international conference which it says is trying to function “as a dialogue platform” by bringing together leading figures from politics, academia and the business world every year.
This year’s theme has been determined as: “Innovative Diplomacy: A new age, new approaches.”
The Turkish official, speaking anonymously, told MEE that Steinitz could attend some sessions within the conference as a speaker, covering areas such as energy, specifically gas, and regional issues.
Turkey and Israel have been conducting talks to repair their downgraded relations since last year through intelligence agencies.
Israel, directly and through the media, has demanded Ankara expel some Hamas leaders from Turkey, who Israel view as terrorists.
Turkey has offered during talks to exchange ambassadors and move relations back within normal diplomatic channels, but repeated Israeli elections and the lack of a stable government there has so far impeded any progress.
Turkey’s decision to invite Steinitz is not that surprising given remarks he made last month in which he expressed Israel’s willingness to cooperate with Turkey on the issue of natural gas in the Eastern Mediterranean.
He also said that he hoped Turkey would join the Eastern Med Gas Forum in the future, a gathering where Israel, along with Cyprus and Greece, explore ways to bring Israeli and Cypriot gas to Europe.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also said earlier this week in televised remarks that Ankara was ready to re-evaluate its relations with Israel if its leaders changed their policies towards Palestine.