Israel and Turkey’s ambassadors to the UK put aside the friction between their two countries over the past year by sharing a joint platform in London on Monday.
Israeli envoy Ron Prosor gave his Turkish counterpart Yigit Alpogan a friendly pat on the back after a well-attended meeting in Westminster jointly hosted by the Conservative Friends of Israel and Conservative Friends of Turkey.
Mr Prosor said the event was “testimony to the significance of the relationship between Israel and Turkey and the magnitude of the shared interests and values we hold together”.
Israel’s intervention in Gaza nearly a year ago led to a sharp response from Turkey: Prime Minister Recep Erdogan publicly challenged Israeli President Shimon Peres at the World Economic Forum in January. In October, the Israelis were angry at being excluded by Turkey from a joint military exercise with Nato.
But Israeli Trade Minister Binyamin Ben Eliezer’s visit to Turkey last week indicated a move to try to restore the two countries’ traditionally warm relations.
Ertan Hürer, co-founder of CFT, who is a Conservative councillor in Enfield, north London, said: “If there happens to be friction between overseas governments, we hope to facilitate dialogue.”
The meeting, he explained, grew out of the fact that the two friends’ groups “for the past two years have had stands side by side at the Conservative party conference and we’ve exchanged wine and baklava”.
CFI chairman Richard Harrington, whose wife Jessie comes from Turkey, said the meeting was “very significant and shows people can be brought together by the Conservative Party”.
Mr Alpogan said that Turkey had always stood against antisemitism, had been a country of asylum for persecuted Jews and was “the sole member of the Muslim world that has maintained uninterrupted relations with the state of Israel since its inception”.
He also emphasised the countries’ common values as democracies.
The Turkish envoy said that there was “a resumed interest on the part of Syria to resume the talks with Israel” in which Turkey had been acting as a mediator.
Only days before Israel’s operation in Gaza, the Syrians were just “one or two words” away from agreeing a joint text, he said.
But Mr Prosor believed the suggestion of a breakthrough with Syria was “a bit of a dramatisation”.
Despite praising Turkey’s diplomatic skills and knowledge of the Middle East, he said that many in Israel would “think twice” about it resuming its intermediary role with Syria for fear this might jeopardise Israel-Turkish bilateral ties.