Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was welcomed by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday just a week after Turkey and Israel announced a full upgrade of diplomatic ties.
With Erdogan playing host to Abbas for the second time this year, the visit is widely considered an attempt to reassure the PA president that Turkey’s support for the Palestinians will not waver despite its renewed relations with the Jewish state.
Speaking at a joint media event in Ankara, the Turkish capital, Erdogan said “the steps taken in our relations with Israel will in no way diminish our support for the Palestinian cause.”
Erdogan told Abbas that the renewed relations would be to the benefit of his Palestinian “brothers,” with Turkey able to utilize its renewed diplomatic channels to advocate for a “solution to the Palestinian issue and improve the situation of the Palestinian people.”
Despite the warming of Israeli-Turkish relations over the past year, Erdogan has not refrained from criticizing Israeli policy, most recently during the IDF’s Operation Breaking Dawn in August, a fact he highlighted as evidence of Turkey’s ongoing support for the Palestinian cause.
“Turkey defends its vision of a two-state solution on every platform, and we have clearly demonstrated our response to the Israeli attacks and civilian casualties,” Erdogan said.
Without referencing Turkey’s renewed relationship with Israel, Abbas thanked Erdogan for his country’s support of the Palestinian cause, saying: “We know that Turkey and its institutions stand by the Palestinian people and the Palestinian state in every field, and support them in the international arena.”
“I would like to thank you for the close attention and hospitality you have shown us,” Abbas told Erdogan.
Israel was a long-time regional ally of Turkey, before a 2010 commando raid on the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara, part of a blockade-busting flotilla, left 10 Turkish activists dead after they attacked Israeli soldiers who boarded the ship.
Both countries then withdrew their ambassadors after Erdogan leveled charges of “state terrorism” and “genocide” at Israel, when dozens of Palestinians were killed in Gaza rioting in May 2018, following the US Embassy’s relocation to Jerusalem.
Amid diplomatic signals this year indicating Erdogan was seeking détente with Israel, Herzog visited Ankara on an official trip in March and was welcomed in the capital by a full military procession.
Turkey and Israel announced full restoration of relations last week, including the reinstallation of ambassadors. Erdogan has sought to lean on Israel to reduce its growing political and economic isolation ahead of 2023 elections.
Agencies and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.