Turkey’s outgoing Ambassador to Israel Oğuz Çelikkol arrived in the Turkish capital on Thursday for “consultations,” as Israel’s lethal seizure of a Gaza-bound aid convoy including a Turkish-flagged ship brought the already strained relationship between the Jewish state and Turkey close to the breaking point.
Çelikkol would have been “withdrawn,” instead of simply being recalled to the Foreign Ministry for consultations if Israel had not responded positively to Ankara’s ultimatum threatening to review the state of its ties with the Jewish state unless it safely returned each and every Turkish national in the Gaza-bound aid convoy attacked by Israel, diplomatic sources told Today’s Zaman on Thursday.
“The diplomatic relations between Turkey and Israel have not yet been scaled down to be headed by a chargé d’affaires. His return to Tel Aviv is currently foreseen, but the timing of his return depends on the Israeli government’s actions,” the same sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Today’s Zaman. A decree summoning Çelikkol back to Ankara was published in the Official Gazette, and thus went into force only days before Israel’s attack on the civilians. According to the same decree, Çelikkol will be replaced as ambassador to Israel by Kerim Uras, a young diplomat with expertise on Cyprus affairs. In January, Çelikkol was forced to sit on a low sofa and was not greeted with a handshake during a meeting with Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, who later apologized for the flagrant insult.
Israeli media, meanwhile, reported earlier this week that the Israeli Foreign Ministry has ordered the families of its diplomats in Turkey to leave the country because of the uproar over Israel’s deadly naval raid on the aid flotilla. State-run Israel radio and other stations and newspapers said the diplomatic mission itself will remain in Turkey. A ministry spokesperson would neither confirm nor deny Tuesday’s reports.