Lapid talks to Erdogan about Israeli captives in Gaza

Lapid’s meeting with Erdogan was another step in the ongoing rapprochement between the countries.

Prime Minister Yair Lapid meets with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at Beit al-Turki near the UN headquarters in New York. (photo credit: Avi Ohayon/GPO)
Prime Minister Yair Lapid meets with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at Beit al-Turki near the UN headquarters in New York.
(photo credit: Avi Ohayon/GPO)

UNITED NATIONS – Prime Minister Yair Lapid asked Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to help ensure the release of the two Israeli citizens held captive by Hamas in Gaza, as well as for the return of the bodies of two soldiers.

Lapid issued the request during a meeting with Erdogan that took place late Wednesday afternoon on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.

It was the first meeting between Erdogan and an Israeli prime minister since 2008, and is one of the more significant aspects of Lapid’s trip to New York. It marked the first high-level exchange between the two counties since they restored full diplomatic ties in August. A senior diplomatic official said that Turkey had reached out to Israel in an effort to repair the relationship, and that Lapid had responded positively.

The official also confirmed that Erdogan would visit Israel, but that no date had been set for such a trip.

The Israelis whose release Lapid seeks

Prime Minister Yair Lapid meets with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, September 20, 2022. Video: Itai Beit-on /L.A.M., Sound: Nir Sharaf /L.A.M

It is an issue he brings up with all international officials, but Turkey has had a role in the past in acting as an interlocutor between Israel and Hamas.

At issue are the bodies of Lt. Hadar Goldin and Sgt. Oron Shaul, who were killed during the 2014 Gaza war, as well as the fate of two Israelis being held captive.

Egypt has acted as a broker in indirect talks to release both the bodies and the Israeli citizens, both of whom are believed to suffer from psychological illnesses.

Prime Minister Yair Lapid meets with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at Beit al-Turki near the UN headquarters in New York. (credit: Avi Ohayon/GPO)Prime Minister Yair Lapid meets with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at Beit al-Turki near the UN headquarters in New York. (credit: Avi Ohayon/GPO)

“The two leaders discussed the fight against terrorism in Israel and generally,” the Prime Minister’s Office said, adding that Lapid thanked Erdogan for the “intelligence cooperation at the time of Iran’s attempts to carry out terrorist attacks on Turkish soil” in June.

“The two leaders discussed the fight against terrorism in Israel and generally.”

Office of Prime Minister Yair Lapid

The official also confirmed that Erdogan would visit Israel, but that no date had been set for such a trip.

“The two leaders discussed the fight against terrorism in Israel and generally,” the Prime Minister’s Office said adding that Lapid thanked Erdoğan for the “intelligence cooperation at the time of Iran’s attempts to carry out terrorist attacks on Turkish soil” in June 2022.

The two leaders also discussed economic and energy cooperation between Israel and Turkey, including the restoration of Israeli flights to Turkey. Lapid said that this step “will contribute greatly to strengthening tourism between the nations.”

The conversation with Erdogan followed one with King Abdullah, in which Lapid asked the Hashemite monarch to speak with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and push him to take a more active role in halting Palestinian terror activity in the West Bank.

Lapid also met on Tuesday with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and with his Greek counterpart. Late Wednesday afternoon he is set to meet with newly installed British Prime Minister Liz Truss. Lapid plans to discuss with her the possibility that the United Kingdom would relocate its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. If it did so, it would become the second world power, after the United States to have its embassy in Jerusalem.