As Israel and Turkey work to reset relations after years of strained ties, the countries’ top diplomats have underlined their will to return to dialogue and cooperate in several fields
Turkey and Israel have agreed to “reenergize” relations in several fields, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said at a press conference with his Israeli counterpart Yair Lapid on Wednesday during the first official visit by a Turkish foreign minister to Israel in 15 years.
Lapid, for his part, said that Turkey and Israel are opening a new chapter in relations and aim to expand economic ties while beginning to work on a new civil aviation agreement.
“The goal is to form and expand economic and civil cooperation between our countries to create business to business and people to people connections and to leverage our two countries, with their comparative advantages regionally and globally, even during the pandemic, and even in times of political tension,” Lapid said.
“We agreed to bring new synergy to our bilateral relations in many fields and establish different mechanisms from now on,” Çavuşoğlu said.
Speaking after one-on-one and delegation-level talks, Çavuşoğlu said the countries’ bilateral trade volume surpassed $8 billion last year, noting that the figures for the first quarter of this year are “very promising.”
“We are determined to increase our trade volume and economic cooperation. It is mutually beneficial,” he added.
Lapid said Israel and Turkey are launching a new framework to strengthen bilateral relations at various levels. He said that the two countries “have always known how to return to dialogue and cooperation.”
“Nations with long histories always know how to close one chapter and open a new one. That is what we are doing here today,” he continued.
“Israel expects to see progress with Turkey not only in our diplomatic and security relations, but on the economic front as well,” he emphasized.
“Beyond diplomacy … Israelis simply love Turkey; every day dozens of flights leave Israel for Turkey with thousands of Israelis who love your culture, your music, your beautiful beaches and colorful bazaars,” the top Israeli diplomat said.
He said the “fruitful and honest” dialogue will “initiate a new framework to improve our relations that will benefit not only us but our children for years to come.”
Earlier in the day, Çavuşoğlu visited Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum and Memorial in West Jerusalem and laid a wreath in the museum hall. The foreign minister was also scheduled to pay a private visit to Al-Aqsa Mosque in the city’s east.
Turkey and Israel have recently been trying to turn a new page, which was marked by the visit of Israeli President Isaac Herzog and his meeting with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Ankara in March.
The countries withdrew their respective ambassadors in 2010 after Israeli forces stormed a Gaza-bound flotilla carrying humanitarian aid for Palestinians that broke an Israeli blockade. The incident resulted in the deaths of nine Turkish activists.
Relations broke down again in 2018 when Turkey, angered by the United States moving its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, once more recalled its ambassador, prompting Israel to respond in kind. The two countries have not reappointed their ambassadors.
Following the press conference, Çavuşoğlu tweeted: “In a constructive meeting discussed all aspects of our relations w/FM @yairlapid of #Israel. Emphasized that Palestinian issue can only be resolved through two states to be established in the framework of @UN parameters & conveyed our sensitivities on Al Quds & al-Aqsa Mosque.”
Lapid, on the other side, tweeted: “We agreed to renew talks in order to enable Israeli airlines to fly to Turkey, and to renew the activity of our Joint Economic Commission. We won’t pretend that our relationship has not seen its ups and downs. But we remember that Turkey was the first Muslim nation to recognize Israel, back in 1949. And we have always known how to return to dialogue and cooperation.”
‘Positive impact’ for peace
Speaking on the Palestinian issue, Çavuşoğlu reiterated that Turkey believes that a two-state solution is the only solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and that ties between Turkey and Israel will have a “positive impact” on finding a solution.
Communication between President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Israeli counterpart helped calm tensions between Israel and the Palestinians in Jerusalem during Ramadan, he added.
A day earlier, Çavuşoğlu visited Ramallah in the occupied West Bank and said during a press conference with his Palestinian counterpart Riad al-Maliki that dialogue with Israel would “make an important contribution to the reduction of tensions, as it did during Ramadan,” adding that it will help strengthen the voice and cause of the Palestinians.
On the other hand, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday hailed the support that Turkey provided to the Palestinian people and their cause. According to the Palestinian official news agency WAFA, Abbas told Çavuşoğlu that Palestine is committed to its obligations under international law and to finding a political horizon to end the Israeli occupation.