Top Erdogan adviser in Israel to discuss Turkey ties

Both countries have expressed interest in improving relations over the last year, and ongoing talks have been held in an effort to maintain stability in the region.

Turkish delegation, February 17, 2022.  (photo credit: FOREIGN MINISTRY)
Turkish delegation, February 17, 2022.
(photo credit: FOREIGN MINISTRY)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s top adviser, İbrahim Kalın, and Deputy Foreign Minister Sadat Onal were in Jerusalem on Thursday to advance improved ties between the countries.

They also discussed preparations for President Isaac Herzog’s meeting with Erdogan in Turkey next month, in meetings with Foreign Ministry Director-General Alon Ushpiz together with President’s Office Director-General Eyal Shviki and their teams.

“Turkey and Israel have broad influence in the region, and both have agreed that the rehabilitation of relations can contribute to regional stability,” a joint statement from the Foreign Ministry and President’s Office said.

Herzog entered the room during the meeting at the President’s Residence, and welcomed the guests from Turkey.

The officials from Ankara came after Ushpiz visited Turkey in December 2021 to begin planning the president’s trip.

 MFA and President's Office meeting with Turkish delegation, February 17, 2022. (credit: FOREIGN MINISTRY) MFA and President's Office meeting with Turkish delegation, February 17, 2022. (credit: FOREIGN MINISTRY)

Earlier this week, a senior diplomatic source said that Israel did not condition improved relations with Turkey on Istanbul no longer harboring Hamas terror cells, a senior diplomatic source said on Tuesday.

“We didn’t set a condition,” the source said. “Certainly, in a very careful process of growing closer, there are gestures here and there. We do see increased Turkish activity against terror in their territory.”

Israel is “working very carefully” when it comes to a rapprochement with Turkey, the senior diplomatic source added.

Israeli sources have emphasized that improved ties with Turkey will not come at the expense of the close ties Israel has developed with Greece and Cyprus in recent years. Herzog plans to travel to Athens and Nicosia in the next two weeks, ahead of his meeting with Erdogan.

Erdogan began to call for better relations with Israel last year. Turkey’s change in policy might be related to its declining economy and growing diplomatic isolation, which it has sought to resolve, including through a reconciliation with the UAE.

In addition to hosting Hamas terrorists, Erdogan has backed destabilizing activities in Jerusalem, has accused Israel of intentionally killing Palestinian children and state-controlled media outlets have broadcast an antisemitic television series.

Tensions between Israel and Turkey began in 2008, when prime minister Ehud Olmert met with Erdogan and launched Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip days later. They peaked in 2010 when the Erdogan-linked IHH (Humanitarian Relief Foundation) sent the Mavi Marmara ship to bust the IDF’s naval blockade on Gaza, arming some of the people aboard. IDF naval commandos stopped the ship, were confronted by IHH members aboard and killed nine of them.

Israel and Turkey maintained diplomatic relations in the aftermath, even reinstalling ambassadors in 2016. But two years later, Ankara expelled Israel’s ambassador over the IDF’s response to rioting on the Gaza border.