Turkey’s Erdogan expresses concern over Temple Mount tensions in call with Herzog

Israeli president tells Turkish counterpart that regional leaders must work for calm in the area, reassures him that Israel maintains religious freedom for all

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

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday called his Israeli counterpart Isaac Herzog to express “his concern and pain” over the ongoing tensions surrounding Jerusalem’s Temple Mount.

During the phone call, which was made at the Turkish leader’s behest, Erdogan stressed the importance of preserving the religious status quo at the holy site and said he was happy to hear Israel’s firm statements about maintaining it, according to a statement from Herzog’s office.

Erdogan said that he was concerned about the violence over the past few days at the Temple Mount between Palestinians and Israeli police, requesting that “in the spirit of Herzog’s important recent visit in Turkey, they may continue working together to maintain peace and calm in the region.”

Herzog told Erdogan about Israel’s efforts to protect freedom of worship for all religions, including Muslims, and said leaders should condemn violence of all types, including against Jews attacked on their way to pray at the Western Wall.

“President Herzog added that we must not listen to the voices of incitement and mendacious propaganda, and that the public is looking up to the region’s leaders and expects us all to act responsibly and work for calm in these holy days for all religions in the region,” the statement read.

It said the talks were “conducted in a good and open spirit.” The two agreed to remain in contact, even in times of frayed ties, the Israeli statement said.

Israeli police officers during clashes outside the Al Aqsa Mosque, in Jerusalem’s Old City, on April 17, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Erdogan wrote on his official Twitter account that he told Herzog “the fact that Al-Aqsa mosque was raided by fanatic groups after the morning prayer yesterday and the day before… and the spread of the tension to Gaza increased our sadness.”

He said that “these images which are seen every year because of some radicals hurt the consciences and cause justifiable reactions in the entire Islamic world.”

Erdogan told the Israeli president: “In this sensitive period, I would like to emphasize once again the necessity of not allowing provocations and threats against the status and spirituality of Al-Aqsa mosque.”

The Turkish leader repeated his call for everyone to “make the utmost effort” in order to preserve the spirituality of the holy site, but refrained from using some of the more inflammatory language that colored the Israel-Turkey relationship in the past, before the sides began to test out thawing their ties.

Once robust regional allies, Israel and Turkey have seen their ties fray during Erdogan’s tenure, as the Turkish president has been an outspoken critic of Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians.

Palestinians clash with Israeli security forces at the Al Aqsa Mosque compound atop the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City Friday, April 15, 2022.(Ahmad GHARABLI / AFP)

Israel has been upset by Erdogan’s warm relations with Hamas, the terror group that controls the Gaza Strip.

The countries reciprocally withdrew their ambassadors in 2010, after Israeli forces were attacked when they boarded a Gaza-bound flotilla carrying humanitarian aid for the Palestinians, and killed 10 Turkish citizens in the ensuing melee.

Relations slowly improved, but broke down again in 2018, after Turkey, angered by the United States moving its embassy to Jerusalem, once more recalled its envoy from Israel, prompting Israel to reciprocate.

In the latest sign of attempts to restore ties, Herzog visited Turkey last month for a landmark 24-hour visit.

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