A “new chapter” in relations between Ankara and Jerusalem was launched this week during a visit to Israel by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, who reportedly sought an explanation regarding a large-scale military drill said to take place in Cyprus over the weekend.
Cavusoglu, who was on a historic visit to Israel this week as the two countries sought to mend ties, met with Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, with the two men vowing to expand economic, energy, and civil cooperation between the two countries.
Turkey, the first Muslim nation to recognize Israel, has been mounting a charm offensive recently with Israel reciprocating, as the two countries have been working to mend their long-strained ties following numerous diplomatic faux-pas.
Back in 2018, the two countries expelled ambassadors and also have often traded barbs over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Last week the Israeli army canceled a segment of the Chariots of Fire exercise that was set to take place in Umm el-Fahm to avoid 'a dramatic effect' on local residents
"We believe that normalization of our ties will also have a positive impact on the peaceful resolution of the conflict. Turkey is ready to take responsibility to continue the efforts towards dialogue," Cavusoglu said.
But attempts to the warming up of relations have not gone unnoticed by neighbor Republic of Cyprus, an EU-member state that has allied itself with Israel in recent years in opposition to Turkey’s regional aspirations.
Cypriot Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides back in February said Nicosia was confident it would not be sidelined as Turkey and Israel began to move ahead with rapprochement.
“No one has ever said that our friend is the enemy of our enemy, that is not how relations between countries are,” Kasoulides told Kathimerini Cyprus in an interview.
Media reports citing Israeli sources said officials have insisted that improved relations with Turkey would not come at the expense of close ties with Cyprus.
Israel is also currently conducting its large "Chariots of Fire" military drill, mobilizing thousands of soldiers and reservists over the whole month of May. According to The Times of Israel, the exercise includes a simulated attack on Iranian nuclear targets while the drill this weekend will conclude in Cyprus.
Greek Cypriot network Sigmalive reported that Ankara has asked for an explanation as to why Israel was carrying out the exercise on the island, where special commando units and many fighter jets would participate.
Israeli officials have been quoted as saying they have offered clarification to Ankara, saying the drill was for domestic purposes and nothing more.
Last week the Israeli army canceled a segment of the Chariots of Fire exercise that was set to take place in Umm el-Fahm at the end of the month.
In a letter shared with The Jerusalem Post, Israeli officials said such an exercise in a town within the Haifa district would have “a dramatic effect” on local residents and would be counter to the promotion of co-existence between Jews and Arabs.