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Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a news conference

Erdogan Planning Steps to Improve Relations with Israel

Turkey is planning a rapprochement with Israel, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday, November 29.

Erdogan made the remarks in the context of his meeting with the United Arab Emirates’ leader Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, which was followed with a plan for the UAE to invest $10 billion in Turkey.

Those steps came after years of tensions between Ankara and Abu Dhabi, including a threat to suspend ties over the UAE’s establishment of relations with Israel in 2020 – even though Turkey has had diplomatic ties with Israel since 1949.

“They [UAE] put up a $10 billion investment plan. By putting this $10 billion into place, we will have built a very different future,” Erdogan was cited as telling reporters on a flight back from Turkmenistan, adding he would visit the UAE in February.

Asked about ties with Israel and Egypt, Erdogan said, “Whatever kind of step was taken with the UAE, we will also take similar ones with the others.”

As part of a charm offensive launched last year, Turkey has also moved to repair ties with Egypt and Saudi Arabia but those talks have yielded little public improvement.

Earlier this month, Erdogan also held a rare phone call with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and had his second call with President Isaac Herzog in several months after Turkey’s release of Natali and Mordy Oaknin, an Israeli couple detained for photographing Erdogan’s Istanbul residence. Erdogan expressed a willingness to hold a comprehensive dialogue between Israel and Turkey.

“Differences of opinion can be minimized if acted with mutual understanding in both bilateral and regional issues,” the Turkish readout of the Erdogan-Herzog call stated.

Foreign Ministry Director-General Alon Ushpiz said in an interview with Haaretz over the weekend, before Erdogan’s remarks, “There is potential for a relative improvement in Israel-Turkey ties, more than there was two weeks ago, and I think we need to examine it exhaustively.”

Erdogan has made overtures toward Israel in the past year, which could be seen as a way for Turkey to get in on the natural gas developments in the region and improve its economy. In addition, improved ties with Israel could help repair bad relations between the Turkish president and US President Joe Biden, who in an interview with The New York Times last year called Erdogan an “autocrat” who “has to pay a price.”

Israel-Turkey ties have been tense for over a decade. The nadir was in 2010 when the Erdogan-linked IHH (Humanitarian Relief Foundation) sent the Mavi Marmara ship to bust the IDF’s naval blockade on Gaza, arming some of the people aboard. IDF naval commandos stopped the ship, were attacked by IHH members aboard, and killed nine of them.

Over the ensuing decade, Israel and Turkey maintained diplomatic relations, even reinstalling ambassadors in 2016, but over the years, Erdogan harbored Hamas terrorists, backed destabilizing activities in east Jerusalem, and accused Israel of intentionally killing Palestinian children.

Meanwhile, Israel has developed close ties with Turkey’s historic adversaries Greece and Cyprus, with an emphasis on energy and defense ties. (JPost / VFI News)

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