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Lapid speaks to Erdogan, Sissi, as Israel bolsters links with neighbors

In PM’s separate calls to Turkish, Egyptian presidents, leaders note ‘major significance’ of bilateral relationships to region

Prime Minister Yair Lapid speaks at a memorial ceremony in Jerusalem for former prime minister Yitzhak Shamir, July 10, 2022. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)
Prime Minister Yair Lapid speaks at a memorial ceremony in Jerusalem for former prime minister Yitzhak Shamir, July 10, 2022. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

Prime Minister Yair Lapid spoke by phone with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Egyptian President Abdel Fatteh el-Sissi on Sunday evening, the Israeli premier’s office said, reflecting the warming ties between Jerusalem and its neighbors.

In separate calls, both the Turkish and Egyptian leaders congratulated Lapid on his recent appointment to his position.

Erdogan and Lapid discussed recent developments in the countries’ bilateral relationship, including security cooperation against Iranian terror cells planning attacks against Israelis in Turkey, and a civil aviation agreement signed Thursday between the countries.

“The two leaders emphasized during the conversation that relations between Israel and Turkey are of major significance to the security, economy and stability of the Middle East,” the Prime Minister’s Office said.

Sissi and Lapid spoke about the regional importance of the bilateral security ties between the nations, as well as about US President Joe Biden’s upcoming visit to Israel, the West Bank, and Saudi Arabia, and the need to ease tensions with the Palestinians. The two also discussed ways to ensure food security due to shortages brought on by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Additionally, the Egyptian president raised the issue of an exposé published in the Haaretz daily which reported on a mass grave of Egyptian soldiers underneath Kibbutz Nahshon in central Israel.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech during a meeting of his Justice and Development party at the Turkish Grand National Assembly in Ankara, on May 18, 2022. (Adem Altan/AFP)

“Prime Minister Lapid noted that he instructed military secretary Brig. Gen. Avi Gil to examine the issue in-depth,” the Prime Minister’s office said, promising to update the Egyptians on the matter.

The conversations came days after President Isaac Herzog phoned Erdogan to send his best wishes over the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, hours after the outline of the civilian aviation agreement was signed between Israel and Turkey, set to replace the current accord dating back to 1951.

For more than a decade, Turkey was one of Israel’s most bitter critics on the international stage. Ankara also took actions that angered officials in Jerusalem, most notably providing support and a haven for the Hamas terror group.

However, a rapprochement process has been underway since May 2020. That month, an El Al cargo plane landed in Turkey for the first time in a decade.

Both Herzog and then-foreign minister Lapid visited Turkey this year, and Israel’s senior leaders have spoken several times with Erdogan. The two sides are focused on signing a range of agreements as part of the upturn in bilateral ties.

Israel and Egypt signed a peace agreement in 1979, but relations have been mostly frosty, thawing more recently in the past few years. The countries maintain close security ties and share security interests in the Gaza Strip as well as in Sinai and the eastern Mediterranean, but most Egyptians reject ties with Israel. Cairo, like Jerusalem, sees Gaza’s Hamas rulers as a serious threat and has restricted crossings to and from the enclave.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid sits with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi in Cairo, December 9, 2021. (Shlomi Amsalem/GPO)

In early 2020, Israel began exporting natural gas to Egypt, marking a historic moment for both countries. Last month, Israel, Egypt, and the European Union signed a memorandum of understanding in Cairo that will see Israel export its natural gas to the bloc for the first time.

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