Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan are planning to meet in Ankara in July, according to a report Friday, as ties between the two countries thaw.
The talks between the two may revolve around potentially exporting natural gas from a field off Gaza to Europe via Turkey, Bloomberg said, citing people familiar with the matter.
According to the sources, supply chain disruptions caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have pushed the two countries to further boost ties after a decade-long breakdown in relations.
Netanyahu said this week that Israel would work to develop the gas field, after a decade of false starts, in a move geared to boost the Palestinian Authority’s faltering economy.
Turkey has been eager to build a pipeline to deliver gas from Israel to Europe, but according to some experts, there is little Israeli interest in energy cooperation with Ankara.
Israel’s embassy in Ankara and the Turkish government declined to comment on the report.
The news of the potentially imminent meeting comes amid a warming of ties between Israel and Turkey after years of animosity between the two countries’ leaders. President Isaac Herzog was hosted by Erdogan last year in Ankara — the first high-level visit since 2008 — and Foreign Minister Eli Cohen met the Turkish leader in February.
Both Netanyahu and Herzog called Erdogan in May to congratulate him on his victory in the presidential elections and urged a continued improvement in ties between the two regional powers.
Israel was a long-time regional ally of Turkey before Erdogan came to power but ties imploded after a 2010 Israeli commando raid on the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara ship, part of a blockade-busting flotilla, that left dead 10 Turkish activists who attacked IDF soldiers aboard the ship.
Despite an official apology by Netanyahu, Erdogan went on to accuse the Jewish state of “keeping Hitler’s spirit alive” during Operation Defensive Shield in Gaza in July 2014.
Ties later saw a moderate improvement, but both countries withdrew their ambassadors in 2018 after Erdogan leveled charges of “state terrorism” and “genocide” at Israel when dozens of Palestinians were killed in Gaza rioting on May 14 of that year, the day then-US president Donald Trump controversially moved the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Facing hardening diplomatic isolation and economic woes, Erdogan began to publicly display an openness to rapprochement in December 2020. In August of last year, Israel and Turkey announced a full renewal of diplomatic ties.