First Israeli ambassador in five years arrives in Turkey

Israel's new ambassador to Turkey, Eitan Naeh, arrives in Ankara on December 1, 2016.

Story highlights

  • Israel's last ambassador to Turkey was recalled in 2010, and expelled in 2011
  • Ties between the two nations have been strained since Israel's deadly raid on the Mavi Marmara
  • "We have a lot of work to do," says new ambassador Eitan Naeh on arrival in Ankara

(CNN)Israel's new ambassador to Turkey -- the first since 2010 -- arrived in Ankara Thursday, marking the full restoration of ties between the two countries after six years of animosity.

Eitan Naeh, who served as a secretary at the embassy in Ankara back in 1993, was appointed ambassador by the Israeli foreign ministry last month. Turkey reciprocated a day later, appointing its own ambassador to Israel -- Kemal Okem.
    Upon arrival in the Turkish capital, Naeh told reporters he was "very happy to be back in Turkey as ambassador."
    "We have a lot of work to do," said Naeh, whose last diplomatic posting was as deputy ambassador to the UK.
    The ambassadors' return is part of a reconciliation deal ending a period of strained relations; both countries recalled their envoys in a spat over a deadly Israeli attack on a Turkish vessel trying to reach the Gaza Strip in 2010.
    The raid on the Mavi Marmara ship left eight Turks and an American citizen of Turkish origin dead. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologized for the raid in 2013, acknowledging that "operational mistakes" had been made.
    After the two sides signed the deal, Israel paid $20 million in compensation to the families of the Turkish nationals killed in the raid. In return, Turkey ended all criminal and civil claims against Israel and its military personnel.
    The blockade on Gaza is to remain in place. But Turkey, which had initially demanded that it be lifted, will be able to deliver humanitarian supplies through the port of Ashdod in Israel.

    'Symbolic nature'

    Israeli Foreign Ministry Spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon told CNN that the arrival of the ambassador "has a symbolic nature."
    "It demonstrates a return to the normalization of relations," he said.
    Turkey had long been Israel's closest ally in the region, but ties began to decline after Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose party has roots in Turkey's Islamist movement, became prime minister in 2003.
    "It is clear that the Turkey of today is not the Turkey of 10 years ago. We aren't looking for a return of relations that we had 10 years ago. But we will do our utmost to deepen our relations and understandings," Nahshon said.
    The reconciliation is as much driven by economics as politics.
    When the negotiations were made public in December 2015, part of the discussions included a proposed natural gas pipeline from Israel to Turkey and the sale of natural gas.