Reforging Israel ties will ensure peace with Palestinians - Turkish FM

"In the past, we played a very constructive role and now Turkey is ready to take responsibility to continue the efforts toward dialogue," said Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu.

 Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, May 25, 2022.  (photo credit: ASSI EFRATI/GPO)
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, May 25, 2022.
(photo credit: ASSI EFRATI/GPO)

Restoring Israel-Turkish ties will help ensure a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict given Ankara's history of playing a diplomatic role in the peace process, the country's Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said.

“We believe that the two-state solution with United Nations parameters is the only solution for a durable peace,” he told reporters in Jerusalem.

“That is what we really want to see: lasting peace in the Middle East,” he said at a press event with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid.

“I also share your [sensitivity] concerning Jerusalem and the sanctity of the al-Haram al-Sharif,” Çavuşoğlu said, referring to the Temple Mount.

“We believe that normalization of our ties will also have an impact on the peaceful resolution of the conflict,” he said. “In the past, we played a very constructive role, and now Turkey is ready to take responsibility to continue the efforts toward dialogue.”

 Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, May 25, 2022.  (credit: ASSI EFRATI/GPO) Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, May 25, 2022. (credit: ASSI EFRATI/GPO)

Çavuşoğlu, who has been in his position since 2015, arrived Tuesday for the first such visit of a Turkish foreign minister in 15 years. Ties between the two countries have been replete with crises over the last decade, and the two governments recently began to repair the damage.

“Israel and Turkey are two regional powers, and more than that, [we are] two nations with a long and ancient shared history,” Lapid said.

“Jewish history there goes back to Abraham in the Bible because it was there [in Haran] that God called on Abraham to go to Israel,” he said. “He and his family never forgot Turkey... all of us came from Turkey, and we are [therefore] all eligible for Turkish passports,” he joked.

“Turkey was also the first Muslim country to recognize the State of Israel back in 1949, and we have always known how to return to dialogue and cooperation,” Lapid said.

Following the Abraham Accords, a new partnership has been created amid terror and instability, he said, referencing the 19 victims of terror attacks in Israel this year.

Lapid said he and Çavuşoğlu “are expecting to see progress not only in our diplomatic and security relations, but in our economic ties as well.”

“The goal is to form and expand economic and civil cooperation between our counties,” he added. “To create business-to-business and people-to-people ties and to leverage our two countries’ comparative advantages regionally and globally.”

Economic ties between the two countries have increased in the last years despite the COVID-19 pandemic and diplomatic tensions, Lapid explained.

“Israelis simply love Turkey,” and more progress can be made, he said.

Israelis simply love Turkey

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid

Lapid said he and Çavuşoğlu had agreed to “relaunch our joint economic commission and to begin working on a new civil aviation agreement.”

“We will be happy to see your national carrier flying to different designations in Turkey,” Çavuşoğlu said, adding that both Israel and Turkey were in each other’s top-10 list of countries with which they have the highest volume of trade. He estimated that number at more than $8 billion.

“Economic cooperation will extend to tourism, clean energy, hi-tech and agritech,” Çavuşoğlu said, adding that technical meetings between the two governments have also been reestablished.

In the afternoon, Çavuşoğlu visited the Aqsa Mosque compound on the Temple Mount. He was accompanied by Azzam al-Khatib, director-general of the Waqf Department in Jerusalem.

In addition, Çavuşoğlu held meetings with Regional Cooperation Minister Esawi Frej and Tourism Minister Yoel Razvozov. He also met with the Turkish-Israel Business Council and with members of the Israeli-Turkish Jewish community.

Earlier in the day, Çavuşoğlu visited Yad Vashem. In a message he wrote in its guest book, he vowed to fight antisemitism and Islamophobia.

“Racism and hatred of the other remain significant threats, and Turkey vows to continue its fight to eradicate [them],” Çavuşoğlu wrote.

This includes “hatred of Muslims” as well as all other “forms of intolerance,” he wrote.“Today at Yad Vashem, we remember the painful events of the Holocaust – a unique tragedy that created deep wounds in the conscience of mankind,” Çavuşoğlu wrote, adding, “Never again.”