Bennett, Erdogan to speak following Israeli couple's release

PM Bennett to break nine-year silence with Turkey's Erdogan following Israeli couple's release
2 min read
18 November, 2021
The last time an Israeli premier and a Turkish president spoke was in 2013, when former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu conversed with Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Natalie and Mordi Oknin returned to Israel on Thursday. [Getty]

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan are expected to speak on Thursday following Ankara’s release of an Israeli couple held on suspicion of espionage, according to Israeli media reports.

The last time an Israeli premier and a Turkish president spoke was in 2013 when former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke with Erdogan.

Israel stepped up diplomatic efforts with Ankara after Israeli citizens Natalie and Mordi Oknin were arrested in Istanbul last week. They were accused of spying after allegedly taking photos of a presidential palace despite it no longer being used as a residence by Erdogan.

Israel responded by bolstering its consular mission in Istanbul, while Bennett and senior officials insisted on the couple's innocence in public statements.

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The lack of top-level diplomatic representation in the two countries following a spat in 2018, has led to Bennett's office, Mossad and Israel's foreign ministry focusing on opening channels of communication with Turkey, according to Haaretz.

One key line of communication was reportedly between Mossad chief David Barnea and Turkish officials.

The communication appears to have led to the couple's release on Wednesday evening, and their return to Israel on Thursday.

A political source cited by Haaretz said that Israel will likely reciprocate Turkey's action with a positive gesture.