Israel and Turkey Agree to Improve Relations, Spokesman for Erdogan’s Party Says

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks at a meeting in Ankara, earlier this month.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks at a meeting in Ankara, earlier this month.Credit: Presidential Press Office/Handout via REUTERS
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

The presidents of Israel and Turkey agreed to work to improve ties between the two countries, a spokesman for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling party said Wednesday, according a Thursday report by the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet Daily News.

Erdogan held his first call with Israel’s new president, Isaac Herzog, on Monday. The conversation between Herzog and Erdogan lasted for 40 minutes and was “very positive,” according to Herzog’s office.

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Hurriyet quoted Omer Celik, spokesman for the Justice and Development Party, as saying that “[a] framework emerged after this call under which advances should be made on several issues where improvements can be made, and where steps towards solving problematic areas should be taken.” Tourism and trade are areas in which both sides will benefit from cooperation, he was quoted as saying.

Ass for whether the two countries will appoint ambassadors, Celik told the newspaper: “It is early yet. They are, of course, being evaluated, in the end, all of these are matters that depend on the steps to be taken.”

Meanwhile, Saudi-owned Al Arabiya TV reported, citing unnamed sources, that Israel has refused a Turkish offer to mediate a prisoner exchange deal with Hamas. According to the sources, Israel would like to see Egypt keep its role as mediator, and opposes Turkish involvement in the Gaza Strip.

Ties between Turkey and Israel have frequently been rocky, and both countries expelled the other’s diplomatic representative in 2018, when Turkey ordered the Israeli ambassador to return to Israel and Israel told the Turkish consul in Jerusalem, who was in charge of Turkey’s ties with the Palestinians, to return to Turkey.

A diplomatic source told Haaretz that although Erdogan has signaled a desire to improve ties with Israel several times in recent years, his blunt statements on the Palestinian issue – some as recent as the past week – make it difficult for diplomats to discern his intentions.

In 2011, in response to a UN report stating that Israel did not violate international law when it forcibly took control of a Turkish Gaza-bound flotilla, Erdogan downgraded Turkey’s ties with Israel, recalled its ambassador in Tel Aviv, and expelled the Israeli ambassador from Ankara. In 2016, the two countries signed a reconciliation agreement that included the payment by Israel of $20 million to a humanitarian foundation used for reparations for the families of Turkish citizens who died onboard the flotilla. The agreement led to the appointment of an Israeli ambassador in Ankara, who served for two years before being expelled.m

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