Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan joined foreign leaders in offering his condolences to President Reuven Rivlin and the nation of Israel on the death of Rivlin’s wife, Nechama, who was laid to rest Wednesday.
“I have learned with great sorrow the passing away of your spouse,” Erdogan wrote in English in a letter to Rivlin expressing his condolences “to your family and the people of Israel,” and noting her death had “deeply saddened the people of Israel.”
“The farewell of our closest and most beloved family members is a big loss which can’t be comforted,” Erdogan wrote.
Israel’s First Lady was buried in a state funeral at Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl national cemetery. Rivlin died a day earlier, on the eve of her 74th birthday, at Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva, where she was being treated after relapsing following a lung transplant.
“I share your pain with all my heart,” Erdogan wrote.
US President Donald Trump also expressed condolences over the death of Rivlin, saying she had represented her country “with grace and stature.”
Trump, French President Emmanuel Macron and German President Frank Walter Steinmeier all called Rivlin’s office to express their condolences.
Erdogan is an ardent defender of the Palestinian cause and a fierce critic of Israel, and he and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu frequently exchange barbs.
In April, Erdogan called the Israeli leader a “tyrant” after Netanyahu called him a “dictator” and a “joke.”
A month later, Erdogan fiercely denounced Israel for the bombing of a building housing Turkey’s state news agency Anadolu in Gaza. The bombing came amid heavy fighting, as Gazan terrorists fired over 250 rockets at Israel and Jerusalem responded with airstrikes on the Strip.
“We strongly condemn Israel’s attack against Anadolu Agency’s office in Gaza,” Erdogan said on Twitter. “Turkey and Anadolu Agency will continue to tell the world about Israeli terrorism and atrocities in Gaza and other parts of Palestine despite such attacks.”
Israel and Turkey formally ended a six-year diplomatic rift in 2016 that began when 10 Turkish activists were killed in a violent confrontation with Israeli naval commandos aboard the Mavi Marmara ship that aimed to break Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip.
But even since ties were reinstated, relations have remained very frosty.
Agencies contributed to this report.