Erdogan 'Open to Genuine Dialogue,' but Israel Has 'No Illusions,' President Herzog Says

In his second day in Turkey, Herzog says he hopes the first visit by an Israeli leader since 2008 would lay 'the groundwork for the reestablishment of relations'

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Israeli President Isaac Herzog (L) stands next to his Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan after a press conference in Ankara, on Wednesday.
Israeli President Isaac Herzog (L) stands next to his Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan after a press conference in Ankara, on Wednesday.Credit: STR - AFP
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
Istanbul

ISTANBUL – Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan "was open to a genuine dialogue on numerous and varied issues" in his historic Wednesday meeting with Issac Herzog, the Israeli president said, adding Israel has "no illusions" about efforts to rehabilitate ties between the two countries.

Herzog and Erdogan met in Ankara on Wednesday in the first visit by an Israeli leader since 2008 and following more than a decade of strained relations. The Israeli president stressed that the meeting was held in full coordination with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, the Foreign Ministry and cabinet members after months of review.

After the meeting, the Turkish president stated he believes that the two countries are now entering a new era of mutual ties.

Visiting Istanbul on Thursday, Herzog told reporters that he hopes "the groundwork for the reestablishment of relations [between the two countries] has been laid.”

"The process that began in the meeting will be tested in the reality and actions on the ground, and of course in conduct of mutual respect," Herzog said, adding that the U.S.-brokered normalization pacts between Israel and several Arab states played a part in the renewal of relations with Turkey. "Israel has earned for itself an impressive standing in the region. The Abraham Accords opened exceptional opportunities for it, also the Hellenic partnership" with Greece and Cyprus, he said.

While in Istanbul on Thursday, Herzog also met with representatives of the local Jewish community, accompanied by Turkey's chief rabbi and other officials.

Before departing for Turkey, Herzog said that "Israel-Turkey relations are important for the whole region," stressing the need for "maintaining stability and partnership" at a time when "the international order is being shaken."

Israeli President Isaac Herzog meets with representatives of Turkey's Jewish community at the Neve Shalom Synagogue in Istanbul, on Thursday. Credit: Haim Zach/Government Press Office

Herzog and Erdogan agreed to work together to prevent “blowups” when disagreements arise between the two countries. Erdogan’s senior adviser, Ibrahim Kalin, and the director general of Israel’s Foreign Ministry, Alon Ushpiz, will lead this effort to prevent any issues from deteriorating into a diplomatic crisis.

This effort follows the high-profile arrest of an Israeli couple in Istanbul last year, which has further strained bilateral ties.

The Herzog summit was convened at a time when the Turkish president is seeking to establish himself as a major actor in the international arena. Erdogan hosted face-to-face talks between the Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers in Antalya, the highest-level meeting between the two sides since the war in Ukraine began.

The Turkish president is also scheduled to speak with U.S. President Joe Biden later on Thursday. On Friday, he will host the president of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, and on Sunday, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakism followed by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Monday.

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