Erdogan says Netanyahu may visit Turkey in coming months, then he’ll reciprocate

Turkish president, who last week sat with Israeli leader in first known meeting, says PM could make trip in October or November

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York on September 19, 2023. (Avi Ohayon/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York on September 19, 2023. (Avi Ohayon/GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may visit Turkey in the near future, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, according to local reports on Tuesday.

According to Turkish media, Erdogan said the visit could be held in October or November. Erdogan added that he would reciprocate afterward by visiting Israel, according to the reports.

“I think Netanyahu’s visit to Turkey, which was postponed due to illness, will take place around October-November, and contacts are still ongoing in order to hold it at the most appropriate time,” Erdogan said.

Netanyahu was due to travel to Turkey in July, but postponed the trip as he had a pacemaker implanted.

The development came a week after Erdogan sat down with Netanyahu in New York, in the first-ever known meeting between the two leaders. Netanyahu and Erdogan agreed during that meeting to coordinate mutual visits in the near future, Netanyahu’s office said at the time.

Erdogan is interested in arranging a trip to Israel as soon as possible to pray at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque, Channel 12 news reported, without citing a source. The prayer would mark the 100-year anniversary of the Turkish Republic, founded on October 29, 1923.

According to the Turkish readout of last week’s meeting, the leaders discussed developments in Israeli-Palestinian relations. It also said that Erdogan urged cooperation in energy, technology, innovation, artificial intelligence and cybersecurity. Turkey’s foreign minister, energy minister and intelligence chief were also present for the meeting.

Erdogan tweeted out pictures of the sit-down, expressing hope that “our consultations will be beneficial for our country and the region.”

Later last week, Erdogan told Turkish media he hoped to soon start cooperating with Israel on energy drilling and energy networks, as well as on tourism and technology.

“Hopefully, we will take this step without too much delay and we’ll start on energy cooperation with Israel, including drilling,” Erdogan said in comments cited by multiple outlets.

He said the countries also aim to “start operating energy transmission lines not only to Turkey, but also from Turkey to Europe.”

He added that he and Netanyahu had agreed to act to raise the volume of trade between the countries from the current $9.5 billion a year to $15 billion.

Signs of improved ties were also evident in Erdogan’s address to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday.

In contrast with previous years, Erdogan refrained from condemning Israel and offered only a few words of support for the Palestinians.

“In order for peace to ring in the Middle East, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict should be brought to an eventual solution,” he said. “We will continue to support the Palestinian people and their struggle for legitimate rights under international law.”

Without a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders, “it is difficult for Israel to find the peace and security it seeks in that part of the world,” he said. “We will continue to pursue respect for the historic status of Jerusalem.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses a protest rally in Istanbul on May 18, 2018, against the recent killings of Palestinian protesters on the Gaza-Israel border and the US embassy move to Jerusalem. (AFP/Ozan Kose)

In previous years, Erdogan used the podium to sling harsh censure at Israel over its treatment of Palestinians. In 2020, he prompted a walkout by the Israeli envoy after saying that “the dirty hand that reaches the privacy of Jerusalem, where the sacred places of the three great religions coexist, is constantly increasing its audacity.”

The past year has seen a warming of ties between Israel and Turkey after years of animosity between the two countries’ leaders. President Isaac Herzog was hosted by Erdogan last March in Ankara — the first high-level Israeli visit since 2008 — and Foreign Minister Eli Cohen met the Turkish leader in February. Then-prime minister Yair Lapid met with Erdogan in New York during last year’s General Assembly.

Both Netanyahu and Herzog called Erdogan in May to congratulate him on his victory in the presidential elections and urged a continued improvement in ties between the two regional powers.

Israel was a long-time regional ally of Turkey before Erdogan came to power, but ties imploded after a 2010 Israeli commando raid on the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara ship, part of a blockade-busting flotilla, that left dead 10 Turkish activists who attacked IDF soldiers aboard the ship.

Netanyahu and Erdogan repeatedly aimed brickbats at each other in the ensuing years, including mutual charges of genocide. In July 2014, Erdogan accused the Jewish state of “keeping Hitler’s spirit alive” during a war with Gaza.

Ties later saw a moderate improvement, but both countries withdrew their ambassadors in 2018 amid violence in Gaza and the Trump administration’s relocation of its embassy to Jerusalem.

Facing hardening diplomatic isolation and economic woes, Erdogan began to publicly display an openness toward rapprochement in December 2020. In August of last year, Israel and Turkey announced a full renewal of diplomatic ties.

Most Popular
read more: