PM to meet Turkey’s Erdogan on sidelines of UN General Assembly

After he postponed July trip for health reasons, Israeli PM still waiting for new date to visit Turkish president in Ankara

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (Ronen Zvulun and Ozan Kose/AFP)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (Ronen Zvulun and Ozan Kose/AFP)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, Israeli sources told The Times of Israel on Thursday.

No date was given for the meeting between the leaders, who will be in New York next week for the world body’s annual high-level conference. Netanyahu is slated to arrive in New York on Tuesday.

The Turkish embassy in Israel declined to comment.

Netanyahu had been set to fly to Turkey in July, but postponed his visit after undergoing surgery to have a pacemaker implanted, which forced him to be grounded for 30 days.

A visit would have been the first by an Israeli prime minister since Ehud Olmert in 2008, as Jerusalem and Ankara have looked to put over a decade of bad blood behind them.

Though Netanyahu has resumed his travel schedule, Erdogan’s office has yet to propose a new date for a visit, according to diplomatic sources. The Turkish president has had a heavy travel schedule of late, flying to Russia to meet Vladimir Putin and to India for the G20 summit over the weekend.

Last year,  then-prime minister Yair Lapid met with Erdogan in New York in the fall during the General Assembly.

Next week’s 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.

Foreign Minister Eli Cohen (L) meets Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara, February 14, 2023 (Presidency of the Republic of Turkiye)

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.

Netanyahu will meet a range of world leaders at next week’s gathering, including US President Joe Biden and Ukraine’s leader Volodymyr Zelensky.

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.

Netanyahu and Erdogan repeatedly aimed brickbats at each other in the ensuing years, including leveling charges of genocide at each other. In July 2014, Erdogan accused the Jewish state of “keeping Hitler’s spirit alive” during a war with Gaza.

Ties later saw a moderate improvement, but both countries withdrew their ambassadors in 2018.

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.

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