“Our military relations are excellent and I believe that political problems will soon be overcome,” Ashkenazi told the Turkish press Monday.
Ashkenazi, the first Israeli army chief to visit Turkey since 2005, joined a NATO conference on terrorism and international cooperation and held talks with his Turkish counterpart, Gen. Ilker Basbug, and Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul.
“This was an important meeting and there is no need to emphasize Turkey’s strategic significance and centrality, for many and diverse reasons,” Ashkenazi said in a statement released early Tuesday by the Israel Defense Forces, or IDF.
Ashkenazi discussed bilateral military cooperation and shared his vision about regional issues related to Iran, Syria and Lebanon, as well as their ties with Hamas and Hezbollah. He also informed Basbug about the IDF’s “Operation Cast Lead” and the Second Lebanon War.
His one-day trip aimed to mend deteriorating ties with Ankara, according to a report by Tel Aviv-based daily Haaretz.
“We have an interest in strengthening ties with Turkey and I have noticed a similar Turkish desire. The cooperation between us will continue,” the IDF chief said.
Ashkenazi also placed a bouquet of flowers in the mausoleum honoring Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey. He signed the memorial book by writing in Hebrew: “On behalf of the Israeli Defense Forces, it is an honor to commemorate the great leader Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. He was a special leader and [is] still a role model with his unique profile, vision, military capability and extreme devotion.”
A diplomatic row broke out in January that led Israel to apologize for Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon’s actions when summoning Turkish Ambassador Oguz Celikkol over the anti-Israeli content of a TV series. Ayalon deliberately humiliated the envoy by seating him on a lower chair, saying to the press in Hebrew, “You see, their place is lower than ours.”
Israel has since made overtures to repair ties with its closest ally in the Muslim world.