Turkish FM: ‘We won’t allow terror in our land’

The Turkish foreign minister said intelligence agencies and top officials in Ankara and Jerusalem were in close contact about the Iranian terrorist threat.

  Foreign Minister Yair Lapid meets with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu (photo credit: BOAZ OPPENHEIM/GPO)
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid meets with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu
(photo credit: BOAZ OPPENHEIM/GPO)

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavusoglu emphasized his country’s commitment to combating terrorism to a visiting Foreign Minister Yair Lapid in Ankara on Thursday, soon after Turkish intelligence revealed that they had arrested suspects in an Iranian terrorist plot against Israelis visiting Istanbul.

“We will not allow terror in our land,” Çavusoglu said. “I believe we sent the message to the terrorists.”

The Turkish foreign minister said intelligence agencies and top officials in Ankara and Jerusalem were in close contact about the terrorist threat.

“I hope that this situation of relations between Israel and Turkey will continue, and I want to thank Mr. Lapid for this visit in a stormy political time in his country,” said Çavusoglu.

Lapid noted that “in recent weeks, the lives of Israeli citizens have been saved thanks to the security and diplomatic cooperation between Israel and Turkiye,” Turkey’s new, official English name. “We are full of appreciation for the Turkish government for this professional and coordinated activity. I want to thank all the Turkish and Israeli officials... who have handled this matter in recent weeks.”

 Foreign Minister Yair Lapid meets with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu (credit: BOAZ OPPENHEIM/GPO) Foreign Minister Yair Lapid meets with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu (credit: BOAZ OPPENHEIM/GPO)

“Iran is behind these attempted terrorist attacks. The intelligence leaves no doubt about it.”

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid

The meeting between Lapid and Çavusoglu came after Turkey arrested 10 suspects at a hotel and three rented apartments in the Istanbul area last Friday. The Iranian suspects impersonated students, businessmen and tourists, and planned to kidnap Israeli tourists in Istanbul, including a former ambassador and his wife.

According to Turkish media, the Mossad found the Israeli targets and flew them home on a private plane.

“The intelligence leaves no doubt” that “Iran is behind these attempted terrorist attacks,” Lapid said, and that the attacks not only would constitute “the murder of innocent Israeli tourists, but also a clear violation of Turkish sovereignty by Iranian terror. Israel won’t sit idly by when there are attempts to harm its citizens in Israel and around the world. Our immediate goal is to bring about [the] calm that will enable us to change the travel warning to Turkiye… the No. 1 destination for Israeli tourists.”

Lapid told Çavusoglu that he used to take his children to the beach resorts in Antalya, the Turkish foreign minister’s birthplace.

In the coming weeks, Lapid said, they will try to finish the process of allowing Israeli airlines to fly directly to Turkey.

In addition, and in light of warming diplomatic ties between Jerusalem and Ankara, the ministers began discussing exchanging ambassadors again.

Turkey-Israel ties deteriorated beginning in 2008 when Operation Cast Lead enraged then-prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as he had met with then-prime minister Ehud Olmert days before and felt he had been made to look like he supported it. Relations hit their lowest point after the 2009 Mavi Marmara incident, in which IDF commandos boarded a ship seeking to break the blockade on Gaza. In the ensuing hand-to-hand combat, nine armed activists from an organization affiliated with Erdogan were killed.

In the ensuing years, Erdogan’s rhetoric grew more vituperative, accusing Israel of murdering children. Turkey harbored Hamas terrorists and funded destabilizing actions in east Jerusalem, and the tightly censored media in Turkey promoted antisemitic articles and television programs.

Lapid’s visit to Ankara was a major step in improving diplomatic relations between the countries, a trend beginning in the last year, with multiple calls between President Isaac Herzog and Turkish President Erdogan. Herzog visited Ankara earlier this year, and then Çavusoglu visited Jerusalem.

Roman Meitav contributed to this report.