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First Israeli ambassador to Turkey since 2010 arrives

ANKARA (AFP) – 

Israel’s new ambassador to Turkey arrived in the capital Ankara on Thursday, an Israeli embassy official said, to serve as the first official envoy since a six-year spat put diplomatic relations on ice.

Eitan Naeh arrived in the morning, the official, who did not wish to be named, told AFP. Naeh is due to present his letter of credence to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the next few days.

Naeh, who had been serving as deputy head of mission at the Israeli embassy in London, was chosen as ambassador earlier this month by a government committee.

A career diplomat, he previously worked at the embassy in Ankara from 1993 to 1997.

Naeh is the country’s first envoy since Israeli commandos raided a Gaza-bound ship of activists in 2010.

After the raid which killed 10 Turkish activists, relations between the two countries plunged to an all-time low with both pulling their envoys out from the respective capitals.

At one point, Erdogan even accused the Israeli leadership of “keeping Hitler’s spirit alive”.

But the bitter rift came to an end in June after long-running secret talks in third countries with Israel offering $20 million in compensation, an apology over the raid and permission for Turkish aid to reach Gaza.

Last week firefighting planes from Turkey were sent to Israel after bushfires raged.

Thanking Ankara for its support and the warm welcome, Naeh told reporters at the airport: “We have a history of helping each other in times of need.”

In a video shared by the embassy’s official Facebook account, Naeh said: “I am very happy to be back in Turkey as ambassador. We have a lot of work to do… I am looking forward to starting the work here, officially.”

The process to normalise relations was strongly supported by the United States, which had long wanted to see NATO ally Turkey resume its once-close relationship with Israel.

Turkey this month appointed Prime Minister Binali Yildirim’s foreign affairs advisor Kemal Okem as its ambassador to Israel.

© 2016 AFP