Turkish Transport Minister Adil Karaismailoğlu has penned a letter to his Israeli counterpart Miri Regev asking her to allow a Turkish firm to enter the tender for the privatization of Haifa Port, Israeli newspaper Israel Hayom reported on April 6.
The tender, slated to be concluded in the summer of 2021, is said to be worth 1.8 billion shekels ($544 million). So far 10 Israeli, American, and British companies have entered their bids, Israel Hayom said.
Karaismailoğlu reportedly called on Regev to allow the leading Turkish multipurpose port operator Yılport, owned by tycoon Robert Yüksel Yıldırım, "a fair opportunity" to enter the tender.
Karaismailoğlu noted in his letter that it was in fact the Israeli government that suggested Yılport bid in the tender in the first place and that the Turkish company's potential win of the tender could improve bilateral trade relations between Israel and Turkey, which is why the matter should not get bogged down by bureaucracy.
The newspaper said that Israel's National Security Council (NSC) has expressed reservations about allowing a Turkish firm to bid in a tender involving a strategic asset, although the country's Tenders Committee has cleared Yılport's participation in the tender.
Both Israel's NSC and the Tenders Committee can submit recommendations on the matter, but the final say falls to Regev and Minister of Digital Affairs David Amsalem, said the newspaper.
The Turkish Embassy in Tel Aviv has reportedly contacted the Israeli Foreign Ministry with regards to the issue.
The Israeli Transportation Ministry reportedly declined to comment on the matter.
The Haifa Port is the largest of Israel's three major international seaports and one of the largest ports in the eastern Mediterranean in terms of freight volume.
Following years of contentious relations, Turkey recently altered its foreign policy toward Israel. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Dec. 25, 2020 said that Ankara would like to have better ties with Israel.
Turkey on March 29 informed Israel that it is ready to dispatch an ambassador to Tel Aviv once the Israeli government commits to simultaneously reciprocating the measure, a senior Turkish official told Israel Hayom. The main point of contention between the two former allies remains the presence of senior Hamas officials on Turkish soil, the official said.