Diplomat Rapped for Unauthorized Comments on Turkish Talks

YERUSHALAYIM -

The Israeli consul-general to Turkey was reprimanded by the Foreign Ministry for a series of unauthorized comments about progress towards reconciliation between Ankara and Yerushalayim.

The diplomat, Shai Cohen, made a prediction to reporters on Monday that the negotiations should be able to weather a political upheaval in Ankara and are drawing ever closer to reaching an agreement.

A government official in Yerushalayim said that Cohen was not involved in the negotiations and was not in a position to speak about them, according to Israel Radio.

Talks were still ongoing and are significantly motivated by regional security concerns, in particular the Islamic State and other jihadist groups in Syria, Reuters reported.

Last week, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said he would quit his jobs of ruling party chief and head of government later in the month over divisions with the country’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The development was thought likely to delay domestic and foreign policy activities until a new government is formed on May 22, only after which Israeli and Turkish negotiators can meet again.

“The reconciliation process between Israel and Turkey has reached an advanced momentum,” Cohen said. “We hope the reconciliation process won’t be affected by the political shift in Turkey.”

“I believe it will take another round or two in order to conclude the deal … Most of the issues between Israel and Turkey are already — to a certain extent — clear.”

However, a return to the kind of military cooperation that Israel and Turkey enjoyed in the 1990s would take time, he cautioned.

Addressing persistent Turkish demands for a lifting of the Gaza blockade, which Israel has refused to do, Cohen dismissed it as a “non-issue.” He explained that negotiations are looking at bringing goods overland into Gaza, where about half the building goods come from Turkey.

In addition, he pointed to the economic incentive in the form of a supply of natural gas from Israel’s offshore Leviathan field that holds an estimated 500 billion cubic meters of gas.

“Everyone is looking forward to see how Israel can export to Turkey, and through Turkey to the West, natural gas,” Cohen said.