Israeli government official visiting Turkey for U.N. confab

JERUSALEM (JTA) — An Israeli government minister is visiting Turkey for the first time since the Mavi Marmara flotilla incident, which left nine Turkish citizens dead.

Environmental Affairs Minister Amir Peretz arrived in Istanbul on Wednesday for a four-day United Nations environmental conference on the Mediterranean Sea, Reuters reported citing an unnamed Israeli official. The visit first was reported by Israel’s Channel 2 television.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry confirmed the visit to Reuters, but stressed that the U.N. issued the invitation.

Turkey downgraded diplomatic ties with Israel and then expelled Israel’s ambassador after the 2010 flotilla incident, in which Israeli troops, while stopping the Mavi Marmara from trying to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza, killed nine Turkish nationals in a violent confrontation on board the ship.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologized to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in March, and representatives of the countries met for reconciliation talks in April and May. Those talks have stalled over several issues.