Israel and Turkey signed a bilateral aviation agreement on Thursday, which will expand airline traffic in both directions, the first deal of its kind since 1951.
The deal aims to strengthen ties between the two countries, according to Israel’s Ministry of Transportation.
“The agreement is expected to result in the resumption of flights by Israeli companies to a variety of destinations in Turkey, alongside flights by Turkish companies to Israel,” the ministry said in a statement.
“Aviation relations are a strategic tool for Israel’s economic development and for maintaining Israel’s regional position,” Minister of Transportation Merav Michaeli stated. “We will continue to strengthen and promote economic and strategic relations between Israel and the countries of the region.”
Turkey is considered to be a popular vacation destination for Israelis. In recent weeks, however, the Israeli government issued its citizens a travel warning to Turkey, following Iranian threats and attempts to target Israelis that were thwarted by a joint Israeli-Turkish security effort.
The new aviation agreement comes on the tail of Israel’s announcement to reopen an economic office in Istanbul next month. The new mission’s activity on the ground in Turkey is expected to impact 1,540 Israeli companies that currently export goods and services to the Turkish market.
All these developments indicate a warming of relations between Israel and Turkey.
While they have had official diplomatic relations since 1949, the two countries withdrew their ambassadors in 2010 following the Mavi Marmara incident, when a flotilla tried to break the Israeli blockade on Gaza and a violent altercation erupted. Ten Turkish citizens were killed.
In recent months, Israeli leaders and high-level officials have held meetings with their Turkish counterparts; these include Israel’s President Isaac Herzog, who met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in March.
Despite the recent diplomatic progress, Israel and Turkey have yet to announce a mutual return of their ambassadors to their posts.
Middle East experts associate the current warming of ties and Erdoğan’s outreach to Israel as his response to Turkey’s declining economy and increased isolation in the eastern Mediterranean.