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Erdogan calls Herzog to ‘sharply condemn’ recent terror attacks against Israelis

Call comes as Jerusalem and Ankara continue efforts to mend ties; presidents exchange holiday greetings ahead of Passover, Ramadan

President Isaac Herzog (left) and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the presidential complex in Ankara, on March 9, 2022. (Haim Zach/GPO)
President Isaac Herzog (left) and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the presidential complex in Ankara, on March 9, 2022. (Haim Zach/GPO)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called President Isaac Herzog on Friday and “sharply condemned” the terror attacks that killed 11 Israelis over the last two weeks.

“President Erdogan asked to send his condolences to the bereaved families who have lost their loved ones and wished a speedy recovery to the injured,” a statement from Herzog’s office quoted him as saying.

“Both presidents emphasized that on the eve of the holidays of Ramadan, Passover and Easter there is a need for action to maintain calm in the whole region,” the statement said.

The call comes amid efforts by Ankara and Jerusalem to improve long-tense ties between the two nations.

Once robust regional allies, Israel and Turkey saw their ties fray during Erdogan’s tenure. He has been an outspoken critic of Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians.

Israel has been upset by Erdogan’s warm relations with Hamas, the terror group that controls the Gaza Strip.

A protestor holds a placard reading ‘Al-Quds (Jerusalem in Arabic) belongs to the Muslims’ during a protest in Istanbul against the opening of the new US embassy in Jerusalem on May 14, 2018. (AFP Photo/Ozan Kose)

The countries reciprocally withdrew their ambassadors in 2010 after Israeli forces were attacked when they boarded a Gaza-bound flotilla carrying humanitarian aid for the Palestinians that attempted to break an Israeli blockade, and killed 10 Turkish citizens in the altercation.

Relations slowly improved but broke down again in 2018, after Turkey, angered by the United States moving its embassy to Jerusalem, once more recalled its envoy from Israel, prompting Israel to reciprocate.

In the latest sign of attempts to restore ties, Herzog visited Turkey last month for a landmark 24-hour visit.

In Friday’s call, Herzog also wished Erdogan and the Turkish people “a Ramadan Kareem.” The Muslim holy month begins Saturday.

“On behalf of myself and all citizens of Turkey, I want to wish citizens of Israel and the Jewish People a Happy Passover,” Erdogan said, adding that he sends wishes for the speedy recovery of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who tested positive for COVID this week.

President Isaac Herzog lays a wreath at the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founding father of modern Turkey March 9, 2022 (Haim Zach/GPO.)

A statement from Erdogan’s office confirmed the call and the condemnation of the “heinous” attacks but also emphasized other issues.

The statement opened by calling for further progress in the energy field between the two countries.

It also said that Erdogan urged Israel to ensure round-the-clock access to the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount during Ramadan and called on Israel to maintain its policy of only allowing Muslim prayer on the compound.

The call also comes after Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Thursday that he will travel to Israel and the Palestinian Authority in mid-May. Speaking to Turkish TV channel A Haber, Cavusoglu said he will discuss the return of ambassadors to Turkey and Israel during the trip, according to Reuters.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry told The Times of Israel that it could not confirm the visit at this time.

Cavusoglu’s visit was the topic of some confusion during Herzog’s trip. Both Herzog and Erdogan announced that the Turkish foreign minister would visit Israel and meet Foreign Minister Yair Lapid in April  — but apparently caught the Foreign Ministry off guard.

Lapid’s spokesman told reporters that Cavusoglu had expressed interest in visiting, but that no visit had been scheduled yet.

Erdogan said during Herzog’s visit that he believed “this historic visit will be a turning point in relations between Turkey and Israel. Strengthening relations with the State of Israel has great value for our country.”

He noted that his meeting with Herzog included a discussion about events in Ukraine and in the Eastern Mediterranean and said he believed “the coming period will bring new opportunities for both regional and bilateral cooperation.”

“This is a very important moment in relations between our countries, and I feel it is a great privilege for both of us to lay the foundations for the cultivation of friendly relations between our states and our peoples, and to build bridges that are critical for all of us,” Herzog said.

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