“We won’t pretend that our history hasn’t seen its ups and downs, but we remember that Turkey was the first Muslim nation to recognize Israel in 1949, and we have always known how to return to dialogue and cooperation,” said Israeli Foreign Minister, Yair Lapid, this morning (Wednesday) in Jerusalem, during a joint press statement with his Turkish counterpart, Mevlut Cavusoglu, who is currently visiting Israel.
This is the first visit of a Turkish Foreign Minister in Israel in 15 years – the last being Ali Babacan in 2007. The relations between both countries deteriorated dramatically following the MV Mavi Marmara raid in 2010, and the following decade saw a continuous decline, culminating at the deportation of the Israeli ambassador from Ankara in 2018.
Ongoing tensions between Israel and the Palestinians did not help the situation, but in recent months there has been a considerable warming of the relations between the two countries that share many security, defense and economic interests. In March, Israel’s President Isaac Herzog visited Ankara and met with Turkey’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Lapid also referred to the terror attack that killed 19 Israelis in just over a month. “We are fighting terror with determination, and we expect our friends to cooperate with us in this battle,” he said, alluding to the tensions between Israel and Turkey regarding the latter’s relations with Hamas.
In light of the new positive path, Lapid announced that during the meeting held prior to the press conference, both ministers agreed to relaunch the joint economic commission and to begin working on a new joint civil aviation agreement.
“The two of us are expecting to sed progress not only in our diplomatic and security relations, but in our economic ties as well. The goal is to form and expand economic and civic cooperation between our two countries,” he said.
“We agreed that despite our differences, the continuation of a sustainable dialogue will be beneficial, and should be based on mutual respect to one another’s sensitivities,” said Cavusoglu. “This will be beneficial not only for our bilateral relations but also for peace in the region.”
“During Ramadan, the dialogue we established at the heads of state level contributed towards the efforts to maintain calm.”
Cavusoglu mentioned, as did Lapid, the increasing economic and trade cooperation between both countries, as well as future opportunities in fields such as clean energy, high-tech, agri-tech and more.
Before meeting with Lapid, Cavusoglu paid a visit to the Yad YaShem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, where he laid a wreath at the Holocaust Memorial and signed the memorial book.
Later today, Cavusoglu is scheduled to meet with Israeli Tourism Minister Yoel Razvozov, and hold a private visit in Jerusalem and in the Temple Mount Compound (Haram al-Sharif, as it is known in Arabic). The minister will enter the Al-Aksa Mosque unaccompanied by Israelis – a powerful statement regarding the sovereignty of the third holiest place in Islam.
Before leaving back to Ankara tonight, Cavusoglu will meet with members of the Association of Turkish Immigrants in Israel.
“Our support for the Palestinian cause is completely independent of our ties with Israel”
Cavusoglu landed in Israel yesterday (Tuesday), and travelled directly to Ramallah in the West Bank, where he met with the Palestinian Authority’s President, Mahmoud Abbas, and with its Foreign Minister, Riyad al-Maliki.
At a joint press conference with al-Maliki, Cavusoglu stressed that Turkey’s efforts in pursuing re-normalization of relations with Israel will not come at the expense of the Palestinians, and will be in coordination with the PA.
"Our support for the Palestinian cause is completely independent of our ties with Israel, but I would like to say that our Palestine policy cannot be changed," said Cavusoglu in Ramallah, as quoted by Turkish news agency Anadolou.
The Turkish foreign minister also referred to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis during his press statement with Lapid, mentioning his “good discussions” with Abbas and al-Maliki and stating that “”we believe that the two-state solution with UN parameters is the only solution for durable peace, which is what we really want to see.
“We believe that the normalization of our ties will also have a positive influence on the solution of this conflict,” said Cavusoglu.