Israel and Turkey held their first strategic dialogue in six years on Wednesday, Ha’aretz reports.
Officials of their respective foreign ministries met in Ankara, completing another stage in normalising relations since their reconciliation agreement of several months back.
In the latest talks, the countries agreed that two Turkish cabinet ministers would visit Israel in the coming weeks – including the first visit by a Turkish minister in more than a decade, likely to take place next week.
The dialogue had its beginnings in 1987. Fifteen rounds have been held, but the talks were frozen for six years after the crisis caused by the deadly incident involving a Turkish flotilla that tried to reach Gaza in May 2010.
A closing statement said the sides discussed cooperation between Israel and Turkey in the fields of energy, economics, culture and tourism. Both sides agreed to boost their contacts via business, academic and cultural delegations.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spoke with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in a sign that Jerusalem’s anger with Kiev over its support in December for UN Security Council Resolution 2334 was subsiding, the Jerusalem Post reports.
The Prime Minister’s Office issued a statement saying that Poroshenko phoned Netanyahu, and “the two leaders agreed to resume their efforts to further strengthen the friendship between Israel and the Ukraine. Among other things, they discussed rescheduling the visit of Prime Minister [Volodymyr] Groysman to Israel.”
Ukraine was one of 14 countries that voted for the resolutions, which slammed the settlements as a major obstacle to peace and as lacking “legal validity,” and soon after the vote, Israel cancelled a visit Groysman had planned for a few days later.
Israel also recalled its ambassadors to Senegal and New Zealand, which were among the countries that sponsored the resolution. In addition, Jerusalem ended aid projects to Angola, another country which voted for the measure, and curtailed aid to Senegal.
According to diplomatic officials, Israel’s ties with those countries are also slowly starting to return to normal, although there has not yet been any official announcement of a return of the ambassadors.
One diplomatic official said that the steps taken against Ukraine, Senegal, New Zealand and Angola were designed to send a clear message about Israel’s anger and signal various countries around the world that Israel would begin extracting a price for countries that vote against it in critical international forums.
That message, one government official said on Wednesday amid talk of rescheduling Groysman visit, has been sent.
Ryanair, the low-cost Irish airline company, is adding 15 new routes between Europe and Israel, Ha’aretz reports
Europe’s largest airline entered the Israeli market in late 2015 with seasonal flights between October and March from Budapest, Bratislava, Krakow and Kaunas to Ovda Airport, which is north of the Red Sea resort of Eilat.
Ryanair said these routes, which came after Israel signed an Open Skies agreement with the European Union in 2012, were “performing well.” The deal has led to a 30% increase in flights to Tel Aviv the past three years.
Starting in October, Ryanair will add twice weekly flights to Ovda Airport from Baden-Baden, Berlin, Brussels, Frankfurt, Milan and Polish cities, Warsaw, Gdansk and Poznan.
It will also add seven new routes to Ben-Gurion International Airport from Baden-Baden, Gdansk, Milan, Poznan, Krakow, Wroclaw and Paphos.
David O’Brien, Ryanair’s chief commercial officer, said the airline was working with Israel’s Tourism Ministry to “establish Eilat as a viable alternative to competing sunshine destinations in Europe.” Israel’s airports could double their passenger traffic to 30 million within five years, he stated.
The Tourism Ministry has been offering airlines a 45-euro subsidy for every tourist flying in through Ovda, in an attempt to boost Eilat.
Tourism Minister Yariv Levin said the significant expansion of Ryanair should cut the cost of fares to and from Israel, while “expressing great confidence in Israeli tourism.”
Ryanair’s massive operations planned for Ovda, and later Timna, are likely to significantly increase demand for flights within Israel, and push down the cost of these flights as well.
Friday, February 03, 2017