Rivlin and Erdogan.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
In his first conversation with an Israeli leader in three years, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told President Reuven Rivlin on Wednesday that Turkey is “ready to cooperate with Israel against terrorism.”
Erdogan’s remark comes even as Turkey continues to support and house Hamas, an issue that has turned into the main obstacle preventing a reconciliation between Ankara and Jerusalem.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, asked about the ties with Turkey at a press conference Wednesday evening in Jerusalem, said there is cooperation between the two states.
“We always wanted proper ties with Turkey, and we are not the ones who changed that direction,” he said. “If it is possible, we will normalize ties. There are contacts, they are taking place, they are even making progress. There will certainly be another meeting soon. I hope that it will lead to the positive result of a reestablishment of full ties.
This was Erdogan’s first conversation with Rivlin as president, and his first talk with an Israeli leader since Netanyahu called him on March 22, 2013, on the last day of US President Barack Obama’s visit that year to Israel, to offer a conditional apology for the Mavi Marmara incident that poisoned Israeli- Turkish ties. Obama brokered the call in the hope that it would pave the way at normalizing relations between the two countries, something that has still not materialized.
Rivlin’s five-minute phone call to Erdogan to thank him for the letter of condolences the Turkish president sent following the killing in Istanbul Saturday of three Israelis was coordinated with the Foreign Ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office and appears an effort to use Saturday’s tragedy as a way to publicly improve ties.
“I believe that against this terrorism we have to stand together with the international community and take a very, very firm stance, and increase our cooperation against all terrorist acts. In this regard we are ready to cooperate with Israel against terrorism,” Erdogan said, according to a transcription of the conversation provided by Rivlin’s office.
Erdogan told Rivlin in reference to Tuesday’s attacks in Brussels that “there cannot be good terrorists or bad terrorists. They are all evil. We have to fight against evil,” he said. “We all pray that things like this will not happen again.”
After Rivlin thanked Erdogan for his condolence letter, Erdogan said that he felt “deep sadness” at the killing of the Israelis, and instructed the authorities to do “all that was necessary to help.”
He also said that he spoke with Turkey’s chief rabbi and the head of his country’s Jewish community.
Rivlin thanked the Turkish president, a harsh critic of Israel, “for all the care you have taken for all our citizens, and for your help in bringing the victims back to Israel with dignity.
“Mr. President, terrorism is terrorism, life is life, and blood is blood, whether it is in Istanbul, Brussels, Paris or Jerusalem,” Rivlin said. “We must all stand together in the fight against this terrible evil.”
The previous memorable encounter between Erdogan and an Israeli president took place at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January 2009, after Operation Cast Lead against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Erdogan and then-president Shimon Peres had an angry exchange and Erdogan stormed off the stage after telling Peres, “When it comes to killing, you know well how to kill.”
That incident temporarily made Erdogan a hero in much of the Arab world.