Erdogan says Turkey, Israel can jointly bring gas to Europe

"We can use Israeli natural gas in our country, and beyond using it, we can also engage in a joint effort on its passage to Europe."

 Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a news conference in Istanbul, Turkey October 16, 2021 (photo credit: REUTERS/MURAD SEZER)
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a news conference in Istanbul, Turkey October 16, 2021
(photo credit: REUTERS/MURAD SEZER)

Turkey and Israel can work together to carry Israeli natural gas to Europe and the two countries will discuss energy cooperation during talks next month, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan was quoted as saying on Friday.

The two countries expelled their ambassadors in 2018 after a bitter falling-out. Ties have remained tense since with Ankara condemning Israel's occupation of the West Bank and its policy toward Palestinians, while Israel has called on Turkey to drop support for the militant Palestinian group Hamas which rules Gaza.

However, Turkey has been working to repair its strained ties with regional powers as part of a charm offensive launched in 2020. In an apparent easing after years of animosity, Erdogan said on Thursday that Israeli President Isaac Herzog would visit Turkey in mid-March.

"We can use Israeli natural gas in our country, and beyond using it, we can also engage in a joint effort on its passage to Europe," Erdogan told reporters on a return flight from Ukraine.

"Now, God willing, these issues will be on our agenda with Mr. Herzog during their visit to Turkey," he was quoted by Turkish TV media as saying. Erdogan had visited Ukraine to discuss the crisis there.

 President Isaac Herzog. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM) President Isaac Herzog. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

While Erdogan has spoken to Herzog amid tensions before, the Israeli presidency is a largely ceremonial role. In November, he spoke to Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, the first such call in years.

Erdogan on Wednesday met Nachirvan Barzani, the president of Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdish region. Asked what was discussed, Erdogan said Ankara wants to sign a natural gas supply deal with Iraq and is holding talks on this.

"We have now taken the Iraq issue on our agenda. We are now thinking about it. There may be a supply on the natural gas side from Iraq to Turkey," Erdogan said, adding Barzani had promised to facilitate talks.