Israeli President Isaac Herzog met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday afternoon, shortly after he landed in Ankara for a 24-hour visit described by Israeli media as a “landmark”.
In remarks to the media, Erdogan said he believed “this historic visit will be a turning point in relations between Turkey and Israel. Strengthening relations with the State of Israel is of great value to our country.
He noted that the meeting with Herzog included a discussion of events in Ukraine and the Eastern Mediterranean and said he believed “the coming period will bring new opportunities for regional and bilateral cooperation.”
The Turkish leader expressed hope that “this important visit, which comes after so long, will provide an opening for future joint opportunities.”
Erdogan went on to say that “anti-Semitism is a crime against humanity”, saying that “hate crimes continue to take place all over the world and we will continue to fight xenophobia, racism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia”.
Speaking after Erdogan, Herzog thanked the Turkish president for his warm welcome and opened his speech by saying in Turkish: “My wife and I are very happy to be in Turkey as guests.”
Addressing the meeting with Erdogan, Herzog said the leaders held “productive” talks and discussed many issues.
“This is a very important moment in the relations between our countries, and I think it is a great privilege for both of us to lay the foundations for the culture of friendly relations between our States and our peoples, and to build bridges which are essential for all of us,” he said, according to The Times of Israel.
Ties between the two sides have been strained for a variety of reasons, including after the death of 10 civilians in an Israeli raid on the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara, part of a flotilla attempting to break an Israeli blockade on besieged Gaza by carrying help in the area. in 2010, Al-Jazeera reported.
After years of frozen ties, a 2016 reconciliation deal saw the return of ambassadors, but it collapsed in 2018 following the Great March of Return protests. More than 200 Palestinians were martyred by Israeli occupying forces over a period of months as Palestinian refugees protested to return home to the occupied territories from where they were ethnically cleansed in 1948. Protests by several months have also called for an end to the siege imposed on the Gaza Strip by the Zionist entity.
Turkey recalled its diplomats and ordered the Israeli envoy to leave the country in 2018 as bilateral relations hit a new low.
Although the post of Israeli president is largely ceremonial and any concrete steps towards rapprochement require the approval of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Herzog’s visit marks a significant thaw in ties.
An Israeli president’s last visit to Turkey was in 2007, and a prime minister’s last trip was the following year. Erdogan and Bennett spoke in November, the first such call in years.
The steps towards a rapprochement with the Zionist entity come as Turkey, plagued by economic turmoil, tries to improve strained relations with several countries in the region, including Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Arabia saudi.
Source: Times of Israel and Al-Jazeera (edited by Al-Manar’s English website)