Erdogan at UN: World must push for ‘independent Palestine’
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Erdogan at UN: World must push for ‘independent Palestine’

Turkish president tells General Assembly he plans to use the normalization of ties with Israel to ‘assist peace process’

Raoul Wootliff is the The Times of Israel's political correspondent.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses the UN General Assembly in New York City, September 20, 2016. (Moore/Getty Images/AFP)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses the UN General Assembly in New York City, September 20, 2016. (Moore/Getty Images/AFP)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday said that he planned to use recently strengthened ties with Israel to help encourage the peace process with the Palestinians, calling the implementation of a two-state solution an “obligation of the international community.”

“There is a need to allow for the Palestinian people to establish an independent Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital, based on the two-state solution,” he told the UN General Assembly in New York. “It is an obligation of the international community toward the Palestinian children, if nothing else.”

Mentioning Israel as part of a broader speech on Turkey’s role in the global community, Erdogan said that the recent reconciliation deal signed between Ankara and Jerusalem would allow his country to play a greater role as a facilitator in the peace process.

“We will try to use the normalization of relations to assist the peace process and solve the economic and humanitarian challenges that our Palestinian brothers and sisters face,” he said.

Turkish President Tiyyip Erdogan addresses the United Nations General Assembly in New York City, September 20, 2016. (Moore/Getty Images/AFP)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses the UN General Assembly in New York City, September 20, 2016. (Moore/Getty Images/AFP)

The Israel-Turkey reconciliation deal, agreed upon by the two countries’ leaders in June and ratified by Erdogan last month, begins the process of exchanging ambassadors to fully restore diplomatic ties.

Relations between the former allies deteriorated with the rise of Erdogan’s AKP to power, then broke off almost completely in 2010 following an Israeli naval raid on a Turkish flotilla trying to breach the Israeli-Egyptian blockade of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. The raid, in which IDF commandos were attacked by activists on board, left 10 Turks dead and several soldiers wounded.

Under the terms of the reconciliation agreement, Israel will pay a lump sum of $20 million in compensation. Individual Israeli nationals will not be held criminally or financially liable for the incident.

Shani Cooper, diplomatic attaché to the Israeli mission in Ankara, shakes hands with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at a reception in the Turkish capital on August 30, 2016. (Courtesy of the Turkish presidency)
Shani Cooper, diplomatic attaché to the Israeli mission in Ankara, shakes hands with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at a reception in the Turkish capital on August 30, 2016. (Courtesy of the Turkish presidency)

Israel had already offered compensation and an apology over the raid several years ago, but with the agreement it also eased slightly its part in the blockade of the Strip, facilitating the transfer of humanitarian aid from Ankara through Israel’s border crossings with Gaza.

Erdogan said Wednesday that Turkey would continue its “efforts to send humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip.”

In a possible hint to a recent uptick in terrorist attacks by Palestinians, he urged Israel to quell tensions by avoiding provocation.

“Israel must respect the sanctity of the Temple Mount and put an end to the violations vis-à-vis its status,” he said.

The Temple Mount, the site of the first and second Jewish temples, has been at the center of months-long tensions between Israel and the Palestinians — the latter fear a growing Jewish presence at the site, which is also home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Palestinian boys hold toy guns on the Temple Mount during Eid al-Fitr on July 6, 2016.(AFP PHOTO / AHMAD GHARABLI)
Palestinian boys hold toy guns on the Temple Mount during Eid al-Fitr on July 6, 2016. (AFP/Ahmad Gharabli)

Palestinians have cited Israeli “provocations” at the holy site as one of the main catalysts for months of violent attacks this year and late last year. They have become increasingly wary of Israel’s intentions at the holy site, often accusing the Jewish state of attempting to impose greater control over the compound, and even of planning to eliminate the mosque and establish Jewish hegemony there.

Israel has repeatedly denied any change in the status quo at the site, under which Jews may visit, but may not pray.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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