Ankara foreign minister tells Israel Ben Gvir Temple Mount jaunt was ‘unacceptable’

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu speaks to his Israeli counterpart Eli Cohen by phone, and expresses concern over National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir’s visit to the Temple Mount a day ago.

A Turkish readout says Cavusoglu reminded Cohen of Ankara’s “sensitivities and expectations regarding the Palestinian issue.” He called Ben Gvir’s visit “unacceptable,” while underlining the importance of maintaining the status quo at the flashpoint holy site.

According to an Israeli statement, Cohen assures Cavusoglu that Israel is committed to the status quo on the Temple Mount, and that religious freedom will be protected for all faiths.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir visits the Temple Mount, January 3, 2023. (Courtesy: Minhelet Har Habayit)

Turkey was among the slew of countries to condemn the right-wing minister’s visit.

The two also discuss expanding ties, especially the economic relationship, and noted the importance of the recent mutual return of ambassadors.

Last week, Israel’s envoy to Ankara Irit Lillian presented her letter of credentials to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, filling a post that has been vacant for more than four years.

In August of this year, Israel and Turkey announced the full renewal of diplomatic ties after two years of slow reconciliation, which picked up pace noticeably with mutual visits by senior officials.

After Netanyahu’s election victory in November, Erdogan and Benjamin Netanyahu held a very positive phone call, sources in the room told The Times of Israel, with both leaders pledging not to surprise the other.

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