Erdogan says Turkey interested in improving relations with Israel

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Earlier this month, Ankara reportedly appointed Ufuk Ulutas, 40, from its Foreign Ministry as an Ambassador to Israel.

TURKISH PRESIDENT Recep Tayyip Erdogan.  (photo credit: REUTERS)

TURKISH PRESIDENT Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

President Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday that Turkey would like to have better ties with Israel, adding that talks at the intelligence level continued between the two sides.

The two countries have had a bitter falling out in recent years, despite strong commercial ties, expelling ambassadors in 2018. Ankara has repeatedly condemned Israel’s occupation in the West Bank and its treatment of Palestinians.

Speaking to reporters after Friday prayers in Istanbul, Erdogan said Turkey had issues with “people at the top level” in Israel and that ties could have been “very different” if it were not for those issues.

“The Palestine policy is our red line. It is impossible for us to accept Israel’s Palestine policies. Their merciless acts there are unacceptable,” Erdogan said.

“If there were no issues at the top level, our ties could have been very different,” he added. “We would like to bring our ties to a better point.”

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Turkey and Israel, former allies, expelled each other’s top diplomats in 2018 over clashes when dozens of Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces on the Gaza border. Ankara and Tel Aviv continue to trade with one another.

In August, Israel accused Turkey of giving passports to a dozen Hamas members in Istanbul, describing the move as “a very unfriendly step” which his government would raise with Turkish officials.

Hamas seized Gaza from forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in 2007, and the group has fought three wars with Israel since then. Turkey says Hamas is a legitimate political movement that was elected democratically.

Israel, which has formalized ties with four Muslim countries this year, said on Wednesday it was working towards normalizing ties with a fifth Muslim nation, possibly in Asia. Tunisia said on Tuesday it did not intend to normalize ties.

Ankara has slammed the US-brokered rapprochements between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco, with Erdogan previously threatening to suspend diplomatic ties with the UAE and withdraw its envoy. It also slammed Bahrain’s decision to formalize ties as a blow to efforts to defend the Palestinian cause.

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Palestinians have censured the US-brokered deals, seeing a betrayal of a long-standing demand that Israel first meet their statehood demand. Egypt and Israel established full relations in 1979 and Jordan in 1994.

Still, despite the tensions between Turkey and Israel, Al-Monitor reported that earlier this month Ankara appointed Ufuk Ulutas, 40, from its Foreign Ministry as an Ambassador to Israel.

Azerbaijan reportedly has been working to try and renew ties between Israel and Turkey, Walla! news reported on Wednesday. Israel and Turkey both offered the government of Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev military support during the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh War.

Aliyev allegedly phoned Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan this week and suggested various paths into improving diplomatic relations between Turkey and Israel.

Erdogan was reported to respond positively to the overtures, Walla! reported, and officials in Azerbaijan told their Israeli counterparts that the Turkish politician was swayed into anti-Israeli rhetoric due to the influence of former aids.

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Last week,  Azeri Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov allegedly called Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi to discuss the same issue with the message that his country would be interested to see both of its allies enjoying improved relations.

Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.

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