In an unusual move, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan strongly condemned the three recent terror attacks that claimed 11 lives, in a call with President Isaac Herzog on Friday.
“Condemning the heinous terror attacks that recently took place in different cities in Israel, President Erdogan conveyed his condolences for those who lost their lives and wished a speedy recovery to the injured,” the office of the Turkish presidency said after the conversation.
Herzog thanked Erdogan “for his important remarks and noted that innocent lives were taken in despicable terror attacks and that this is an enormous tragedy,” according to the President’s Office.
Erdogan’s words followed a statement of condemnation issued last week by Turkey’s Embassy in Tel Aviv, following attacks in Beersheba, Hadera and Bnei Brak, carried out by Palestinian and Israeli-Arab terrorists.
Turkey has been a strong advocate of the Palestinians and has not condemned terror attacks against Israelis very often.
The condemnation by Erdogan and the Turkish embassy is part of an attempt by both countries to repair their frayed diplomatic ties, which began with the inauguration of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s government in June and took off after the swearing-in of Herzog as president a month later.
Erdogan welcomed Herzog to Ankara last month in what was the first Israeli diplomatic visit to Turkey in over a decade.
On Thursday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said he will visit Israel and the Palestinian territories with Energy Minister Fatih Donmez in mid-May and discuss the appointment of ambassadors with his Israeli counterpart during the visit.
As a result of past tensions, neither country has ambassadors posted, although they do maintain embassies.
Herzog and Erdogan also spoke about the upcoming holiday period and agreed that peace and stability must be maintained in the region.
The Israeli security establishment has been preparing for an escalation of violence during Ramadan since Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad called for increased terror attacks on Israel. Concern is also high because Ramadan, which began on Saturday night, overlaps with both Passover and Easter in about two weeks.
Erdogan told Herzog that it was important that Palestinians be allowed freedom to worship on the Temple Mount, known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif.
“Erdogan... repeated that he expected the sensitivity shown by Israeli authorities – in keeping Al-Aqsa Mosque open 24 hours [a day] in the last 10 days of Ramadan and closing it to visits by non-Muslims – to continue,” his office said.
The Turkish president also told his Israeli counterpart that synergy in the energy field was mutually beneficial for the two countries, adding that he hoped the momentum built in recent talks would continue. Energy has emerged as a potential area of cooperation in talks to mend Turkey and Israel’s long-strained ties.
Erdogan wished Herzog and the citizens of Israel “a happy Passover” while Herzog wished Erdogan and the Turkish people a “Ramadan Kareem” – a “generous Ramadan” – according to Herzog’s office.
Reuters contributed to this report.