Middle East Monitor / December 10, 2020
Turkey has appointed a new ambassador to Israel for the first time in over two years, appointing someone who is not a career diplomat to the post, Al-Monitor reported.
Ufuk Ulutas, chair of the Centre for Strategic Research at the Turkish Foreign Ministry, has been chosen for the post. Ulutas studied Hebrew and Middle Eastern politics at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
Described as “very polished”, “very clever” and “very pro-Palestinian” by sources familiar with him, the 40-year-old also worked as director of the Turkish think-tank the Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA).
Turkey has diplomatic and trade ties with Israel, but relations have been strained for years since Israeli commandos assaulted the Turkish-registered Mavi Marmara in international waters in May 2010; nine Turkish citizens on board were killed and another died of his wounds later.
The ship was sailing towards the Gaza Strip as part of the Freedom Flotilla to break the Israeli-led siege of the Palestinian enclave. Ankara recalled its ambassador from Tel Aviv following the assault.
Reports claim Ankara’s decision to appoint an envoy is a step towards improving relations with the US as President-elect Joe Biden takes office.
Last week, it was confirmed by three sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, that the head of Turkish Intelligence Services Hakan Fidan was involved in secret discussions with Israel.
One of the sources noted that Turkey’s efforts to improve ties with the occupation state are fuelled by fear that Biden will treat Ankara harshly when his administration enters into office as a result of Turkey’s purchase of the Russian S-400 air defence systems.