Israel ‘regrets’ Turkey’s Move at Downgrading Diplomatic Ties

Israel expressed “regret” today at Turkey’s move to reduce the level of diplomatic relations between the two countries. The Foreign Ministry confirmed reports from Ankara that the military government there decided to lower the rank of its senior representative in Tel Aviv from Minister to Second Secretary and has asked Israel to do likewise.

Turkey’s move, a belated reaction to the “Jerusalem Law,” followed the closing of the Turkish Consulate General in Jerusalem by the previous civilian government of Suleiman Demirel. Foreign Ministry officials here said that Israel’s Minister in Ankara, Dr. Ya’acav Cohen, would be returning home “in a matter of months.” They said it was still unclear whether the Turks would insist on the withdrawal of the Israel military attaches at the two legations.

Informed sources said the Turkish decision had been more or less expected for the past several weeks. Israel, they said, had not sent any special envoy to Ankara to try and head it off but had enlisted the help of friendly third parties who brought their influence to bear on Turkey and perhaps prevented an even more serious rupture.

Turkey and Israel have never had ambassadorial level links, but ever since 1949, they have been represented in each other’s country by diplomats holding the formal rank of “Charged Affaires A.I.” (ad interim). In Israel’s case, most of these diplomats have in fact been selected from the highest echelon of the foreign service since Ankara was considered a particularly important post. Both countries have until now maintained medium sized legations in the other country. Presumably now the number of diplomats in the two legations, and not merely the rank of the senior ones, will be reduced.

EFFORTS TO ESTABLISH POLICY

In the 1950s and 1960s Israeli governments worked quietly but steadily to build up what was called the “periphery policy” — that is, fostering ties with the three major non-Arab states on the borders of the Middle East: Turkey, Iran and Ethiopia. In the wake of radical changes in the two latter countries, and in the wake — apparently — of heavy Arab pressure on Turkey, not a great deal remained of that ambitious policy. Nevertheless, same Israeli observers refuse to slip into despondency. They insist that the underlying confluence of interests which made the “periphery policy” a reality in the past still exist in the present and could again expression once again in the future.

In practical terms of day-to-day diplomacy, Turkey’s decision will mean that henceforth the Israeli Charge d’Affaires in Ankara will be a Second Secretary. The same will apply to Turkey’s representative in Israel.

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