Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas hosted Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Tuesday night in Ramallah on a rare visit, ahead of planned meetings between the visiting diplomat and senior Israeli officials Wednesday.
The Turkish diplomat is currently on a two-day visit to Israel and the West Bank. Cavusoglu’s visit is the first by a Turkish foreign minister in 15 years, amid a push by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to mend ties with Israel.
At a press conference earlier on Tuesday in Ramallah, Cavusoglu emphasized that Turkey’s relationship with Israel would not impact its stance on the Palestinian cause.
“Our coordination with the Palestinian side is a separate matter than our relationship with [Israel]. Our policy towards the Palestinians will not change,” Cavusoglu said.
Cavusoglu traveled directly to Ramallah after touching down to chair a joint committee on bilateral relations and meet with PA Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Maliki.
At a press conference after the meeting, the two top diplomats signed ten bilateral agreements in trade and agriculture. Cavusoglu emphasized Ankara’s support for a planned industrial zone in Jenin.
Cavusoglu added that he hoped to expand scholarships for Palestinians to study in Turkey, a popular academic destination.
Turkey and Israel have been undergoing a rapprochement in recent months as Ankara seeks to break out of its increasing regional isolation. Israeli President Isaac Herzog visited Turkey in March and met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Ramallah has blasted other regional states for pursuing closer relations with Israel, the PA has taken a more measured approach on Turkey’s warming Israel ties.
“I do not believe that Turkish-Israeli relations will negatively impact [the Palestinians]. Quite the opposite: the Turkish position in support of the Palestinians will have a positive impact,” said senior PA diplomat Ahmad al-Deek.
Al-Deek said Abbas and other Palestinian officials would ask the visiting diplomat to pressure Israel “to cease all forms of escalation.”
Tensions between Israel and the Palestinians have risen again in recent months. Israelis have seen a deadly terror wave that left 19 dead in Israeli cities. Palestinians and Israeli police clashed repeatedly at the Temple Mount holy site in April, sparking fears of a possible escalation.
Concern has arisen that a planned march by Israeli nationalists on Sunday through Jerusalem’s Old City could spark tensions anew. The so-called Flag March is held annually on the anniversary of Israel’s capture of East Jerusalem from Jordan in the 1967 war.
“The message to the Israeli side will be: cease all forms of escalation in the conflict, whether it’s the army’s incursions or shooting incidents, attacks by settlers, or raids at Al-Aqsa and the Flag March,” al-Deek, a political advisor to al-Maliki, told The Times of Israel.
On Wednesday, Cavusoglu is scheduled to meet with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid. The two will give public statements together shortly before noon.
Cavusoglu will then have lunch with Tourism Minister Yoel Razvozov, and then will head to Jerusalem’s Old City for a private tour and a visit to the Temple Mount.
President Isaac Herzog and Cavusoglu first announced the Turkish envoy’s planned trip to Israel in March while Herzog was in Ankara.
Once robust regional allies, Israel and Turkey saw ties fray during Erdogan’s lengthy tenure. The Turkish president has been an outspoken critic of Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians.
Israel, meanwhile, has long decried Erdogan’s warm relations with Hamas, the terror group that controls the Gaza Strip. Turkey plays host to Hamas officials and provides the movement with financial backing.