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Herzog announces Turkish FM will visit Israel, catches Foreign Ministry off guard

Yair Lapid apparently surprised by declaration he will host Turkish counterpart next month; ministry says Ankara has expressed interest, but no visit yet scheduled

Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu speaks to The Associated Press, at the presidential palace, in Ankara, Turkey, November 17, 2021. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)
Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu speaks to The Associated Press, at the presidential palace, in Ankara, Turkey, November 17, 2021. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)

President Isaac Herzog and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced Wednesday during the former’s visit to Ankara that Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu would visit Israel next month — but apparently caught Israel’s Foreign Ministry off guard.

Herzog said Cavusoglu was expected to meet with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid. Media reports said the two would discuss the reopening of embassies in both countries.

But it later emerged that neither Lapid nor his ministry had been aware of or had okayed such a visit. According to Channel 13 news, Herzog and Lapid’s offices were attempting to sort out the miscommunication.

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

Cavusoglu spoke with Lapid ‏on January 22, marking the first phone call to take place between the nations’ foreign ministries in 13 years.

Herzog’s trip to Ankara on Wednesday was the highest-level visit by an Israeli official since former prime minister Ehud Olmert went to Turkey in 2008.

Herzog and Erdogan raised the issue of establishing a problem-solving mechanism meant to prevent relations from reaching a stalemate in the future, and said such a mechanism will be further developed during Cavusoglu’s purported visit.

“Your foreign minister will visit Israel next month and will surely hold talks with the Israeli foreign minister about building these mechanisms and the agenda that you described at length in all fields, and we shall try to promote dialogue and examine it through deeds,” the Israeli president said.

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

Erdogan said he believed that Herzog’s “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.”

Despite high hopes for a possible diplomatic breakthrough during the meetings, the sides are not slated to discuss or announce the installment of full ambassadors in each others’ capitals, a Foreign Ministry source told The Times of Israel.

AP contributed to this report.

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