President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced yesterday that his Israeli counterpart, Isaac Herzog, will make an official visit to Turkey in February. Erdogan told NTV that the visit will be part of the efforts being made to repair relations between the two countries.
"This visit could open a new chapter in relations between Turkey and Israel," said the Turkish leader. "We are ready to take steps in Israel's direction in all areas, including natural gas."
A spokesperson for Herzog declined to comment on Erdogan's announcement. However, speaking on condition of anonymity, officials confirmed that talks about a visit have taken place.
"If a leader of an important Muslim country like Turkey reaches out to Israel," a senior Israeli official told Axios news website yesterday, "there is no option other than to give a positive answer."
Turkey and Israel had planned to cooperate in transporting gas to Europe back in 2016, in an attempt to reconcile their differences. Erdogan has also mentioned the positive engagements between Turkey and Israel in recent months: "We speak to Israeli President Isaac Herzog; Prime Minister Naftali Bennett also is communicating with us at different levels."
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He defended his efforts to improve relations with Tel Aviv. "If we are policy making, this cannot be with a fight or quarrel. We have to maintain the policy within the line of peace."
In 2018, Turkey recalled its ambassador from Israel over deadly attacks against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, but appointed a new envoy in 2020. Israel was also accused of espionage after an Israeli couple were arrested after taking photographs of Erdogan's Istanbul residence. They were later released, avoiding a diplomatic crisis between the two countries.