Turkish officials hold preparatory talks in Israel ahead of Herzog’s trip to Ankara

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A high-level Turkish delegation visited Israel on Thursday in preparation for President Isaac Herzog’s upcoming visit to Turkey as the two countries strive to improve their long-standing relationship.

The delegation, which was hosted at the Foreign Ministry and the President’s residence, was led by Ibrahim Kalin, spokesman and senior adviser to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Deputy Foreign Minister Sadat Onal. They met with Director General of the Foreign Ministry Alon Ushpiz and Director General of President’s Office Eyal Shviki.

Besides the president’s visit, the parties discussed bilateral relations, which have suffered greatly over the past decade but have shown signs of potential improvement in recent months.

“We discussed measures for peace and stability in the region, we also talked about President Herzog’s visit to Turkey,” Kalin was quoted as saying by Army Radio.

According to a joint statement from the Foreign Ministry and the president’s office, Herzog entered the meeting to welcome guests.

“Turkey and Israel have broad influence in the region, and both agreed that rehabilitating relations can contribute to regional stability,” the statement said.

Turkish and Israeli officials meet in Jerusalem on February 17, 2022 to prepare for President Isaac Herzog’s upcoming visit to Turkey. (Courtesy)

Kalin and Onal’s arrival in Israel follows a visit by Ushpiz to Turkey in December, the first by a senior Israeli official in six years.

On Wednesday, Erdogan said Herzog’s upcoming visit to Ankara would be beneficial for both nations.

“Of course we welcome this visit,” he told reporters.

“God willing, it will be good for Turkey-Israel relations that such a step is taken after such a long time,” he said.

President Isaac Herzog (left) and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (right). (AP)

Ties between the two countries have appeared to thaw in recent months, as Erdogan has made a number of statements about possible cooperation with Israel.

Turkey is currently being hit by an economic crisis, while Israel and a group of countries in the region, including Turkey’s rival Greece, are working on a joint pipeline to bring gas from the eastern Mediterranean to Europe. , under an agreement signed in January 2020.

Turkey has strongly opposed the project and asserted its own territorial claims to the region’s energy wealth.

After the Biden administration dropped support for the controversial pipeline last month, Erdogan signaled he wanted Turkey involved in importing Israeli gas to Europe, saying there had been ‘some progress’ on the issue in the past, and suggesting a new project that would involve Ankara.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, left, and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in Ankara, Turkey, January 3, 2012. (AP Photo, File)

Once strong regional allies, Israel and Turkey saw their ties crumble during Erdogan’s tenure, during which the Turkish leader was a vocal critic of Israel’s policy towards the Palestinians.

Israel has been upset by Erdogan’s warm relationship with Hamas, the terror group that controls the Gaza Strip.

The countries reciprocally withdrew their ambassadors in 2010 after Israeli forces boarded a Gaza-bound flotilla carrying humanitarian aid for Palestinians trying to break an Israeli blockade. Although most of the participating ships were boarded without incident, those aboard a Turkish ferry fiercely resisted the Israeli action, resulting in the deaths of nine Turkish militants.

Relations slowly improved but broke down again in 2018, after Turkey, angered by the US moving its embassy to Jerusalem, once again recalled its envoy from Israel, prompting Israel to return the favour.

ToI staff and agencies contributed to this report.

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