Turkish and Israeli presidents talk in rare phone call

July 13, 2021: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has held talks with his new Israeli counterpart Isaac Herzog, a sign of a possible rapprochement between the two former allies after several previous friendly relations.

The extraordinary telephone conversation between the two countries took place on Monday after Erdogan, a key champion of the Palestinian cause during his 18-year rule, held talks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday.

During the meeting, Erdogan told Abbas that, according to the Turkish presidency, “there will be no silence on Israeli atrocities in Palestine.” Israel and Turkey were once close regional partners, but relations between the two countries have grown over the past 10 years. The Turkish government has repeatedly criticized Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians. However, the Turkish president said that during the meeting with Herzog, Erdogan stressed the “great importance” of Turkey-Turkey-Israel relations for security and stability in the Middle East.

The statement added that Erdogan also stressed Turkey’s insistence on continuing talks despite differences of opinion. The Turkish Presidency said that there is a strong potential for cooperation between the two countries in other fields including energy, tourism and technology.

According to a statement from the Israeli president’s office, Herzog and Erdogan said the “ongoing talks despite all differences” were particularly important for moving towards a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians. Herzog took office last week after being elected by the Israeli parliament, the Nasset, in a June vote. He spoke with neighboring Jordan’s King Abdullah II on Saturday after Israel and Jordan agreed to start talks on selling water to the Hashemite kingdom.

Erdogan expressed a desire to see better relations between Turkey and Israel after years of disagreement over Israel’s occupation of the occupied West Bank and its treatment of the Palestinians late last year. Turkey, which became the first Muslim-majority country to recognize Israel in 1949, first severed ties with Israel in 2010. It then killed 10 pro-Palestinian Turkish activists by Israeli commandos aboard a Turkish-owned ship, the Mavi Marmara, a flotilla trying to break Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza and aid.

The Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip has been in place since June 2007, when Israel imposed a land, sea and air blockade on the coastal siege. They re-established the relationship in 2016, but the relationship grew again. In May of that year, Ankara withdrew its ambassador to Gaza in protest of the deadly attacks on Palestinians protesting US President Donald Trump’s decision to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Erdogan and former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu often exchanged angry remarks, but the two countries continued to trade with each other.

In August this year, Israel accused Turkey of issuing passports to a dozen Hamas members in Istanbul, calling the move “extremely unfriendly” and would be taken up with Turkish government officials. Hamas seized the besieged Gaza Strip in 2006 from forces loyal to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas after winning legislative elections in 2006. Since then, Israel has stepped up its siege and launched three long-running military strikes on Gaza. During the latest bombing in May, Erdogan accused Israel of carrying out “terrorism” and promised to take the world to the region’s defense.

The 11-day attack killed at least 260 Palestinians, including 66 children, and caused extensive damage to infrastructure and residential areas. On the Israeli side, rockets fired by Palestinian militants killed 13 people, including two children.

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