Lapid, Erdogan speak after restoring ties, agree to restart direct flights

Hailing new relationship as a boon to regional stability, prime minister, Turkish president hold call hours after agreement reached to reinstate ambassadors

Composite image shows Prime Minister Yair Lapid, left, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right. (Marc Israel Sellem/Pool; AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)
Composite image shows Prime Minister Yair Lapid, left, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right. (Marc Israel Sellem/Pool; AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)

Prime Minister Yair Lapid spoke with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday evening hours after the two countries announced they were restoring full diplomatic ties and reinstating ambassadors following a period of discord.

“The prime minister and the president agreed that the latest development is an important and additional layer in the strengthening of relations that will also lead to many achievements,” a statement from Lapid’s office said.

The new ties will focus on growth in the economic and tourism spheres and will see the return of Israeli flights to Turkey in September, the statement said.

The two leaders congratulated each other on resuming relations and “emphasized the great importance of Israel and Turkey in maintaining regional stability,” it added. There was no immediate statement from the Turkish side.

Earlier Wednesday, Israel and Turkey announced a full renewal of diplomatic ties after a year of gradual warming relations.

Lapid hailed the development in a statement released by the Prime Minister’s Office as “an important asset for regional stability and very important economic news for the citizens of Israel,” adding, “We will continue to strengthen Israel’s standing in the world.”

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

As part of the upgrade in ties, both countries are slated to soon exchange ambassadors and consuls general, though no timeline was provided.

Earlier Wednesday, Defense Minister Benny Gantz welcomed “the positive development in the relations between Israel and Turkey, and the upgrade in our ties,” also labeling it a boon for “regional stability.”

After a year of warming relations between the nations, the final agreement was reached after a conversation Tuesday evening between Israel’s Foreign Ministry Director-General Alon Ushpiz and Turkish Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Önal.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters on Wednesday that “we are not giving up on the Palestinian cause,” despite the upgrade in ties with Israel.

The return of ambassadors “is important to improving bilateral ties,” Cavusoglu said, adding: “As we have always said, we will continue to defend the rights of Palestinians.”

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. In the dozen years since, ties between Jerusalem and Ankara fluctuated widely.

In March, amid diplomatic signals indicating Erdogan was seeking détente with Israel, President Isaac Herzog visited Ankara on an official trip and was welcomed in the capital by a full military procession.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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