ANKARA — Turkey expects that Israel respect "the international law on the Palestinian issue" in order to normalize ties between both countries, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Wednesday.
Speaking before a delegation of Israeli journalists in Ankara, Cavusoglu said that Israeli-Turkish relations have been rocky, and that the fissures that were created in the past were “due to violations of Palestinian rights” by Israel, rather than bilateral violations. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, he said, has reiterated support for the two-state solution.
The minister added that he is communicating with his Israeli counterpart, Yair Lapid, stating: “We are seeking to establish a sustainable relationship.”
Despite the frank admission, Cavusoglu also said Turkey and Israel have "great potential" for cooperation in the energy field, following several reports in recent weeks indicating that both countries are considering a gas pipeline to bring Israeli gas to Europe.
"Once you reach Turkey, you can consider your gas sold in Europe," Turkey's Deputy Energy Minister, Alparslan Bayraktar, boasted to journalists. "This will also help improve this political relationship [between Turkey and Israel]. But we don't need to limit two countries' relationship to just a pipeline project. We can develop so many different things besides the gas pipeline project."
If completed, the pipeline could help Europe decrease its reliance on Russian energy, which accounts for 45 percent of EU gas imports and has curtailed Western efforts to bar all trade with Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.
In the beginning, "we were discussing four to five years," but it might be less to construct the pipeline, Bayraktar added. "Turkey needs alternative gas supply and so does Europe. Demand is growing. In Europe, they said they will be carbon-neutral after 2050 … they need to switch from coal to gas, that means that Europe needs more gas. And in another area, also valid for Turkey, we are investing in renewables."
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During his conversation with the visiting delegation of Israeli journalists, Cavusoglu also urged restraint between Israelis and Palestinians during Ramadan, and particularly during the overlap between the Muslim holy month and Passover, starting this weekend. The minister said that Erdogan condemned the series of terror attacks against Israelis in past weeks. At the same time, Cavusoglu said, Turkey also condemned the “killing of an innocent, unarmed Palestinian woman” on April 10.
The minister spoke as part of a press tour for Israeli journalists organized by the Turkish president’s office. The Turkish initiative comes amid Turkish-Israeli rapprochement efforts. The Israeli reporters' delegation was also addressed by members of the investment office of the Turkish presidency, and toured historic synagogues.
The past months have seen renewed attempts to establish warmer ties between Israel and Turkey, including a visit from Israeli President Isaac Herzog to Ankara in March, the first diplomatic visit at this rank in more than a decade.
Foreign Minister Cavusoglu is due to visit Israel in mid-May, though that date has not yet been determined. In Israel, he is expected to discuss the possibility of establishing a Turkey-Israel gas pipeline, a subject that is gaining traction as Europe tries to decrease its dependence on Russian oil and gas.