Turkey and Israel leaders meet for first time since 2008
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid on Tuesday, in the first such face-to-face talks between leaders of the two countries since 2008.
The meeting took place on the sidelines of the 77th United Nations General Assembly in New York, shortly after world leaders addressed the podium in the annual general debate.
Lapid “thanked President Erdogan for intelligence cooperation” during a joint Israeli-Turkish effort earlier this year to prevent an alleged Iranian plot to attack Israeli tourists in Istanbul, the prime minister’s office said in a statement.
The Israeli premier also "brought up the issue of missing and captive Israelis and the importance of bringing them home," his office said, referring to four of its citizens, including two soldiers, believed to be missing in the besieged Gaza Strip since 2014.
The two leaders also discussed boosting bilateral relations, including economic and energy cooperation.
In his address to the General Assembly earlier on Tuesday, Erdogan called for the establishment of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.
He also said that Turkey was "determined to continue to develop our relations with Israel for the sake of the future, peace and stability of not only the region, but also of Israel, the Palestinian people and ours."
Last month, Turkey and Israel announced they had decided to fully restore diplomatic ties and assign ambassadors.
Relations between the two countries have been rocky since 2011, when Ankara expelled Israel's ambassador following a UN report into Israel's 2010 raid on the Mavi Marmara aid ship to Gaza, which killed nine Turkish citizens.
The rift was healed in 2016 when full diplomatic relations were restored and both countries traded ambassadors.
Tensions were renewed in 2018 when Israeli forces killed scores of Palestinians taking part in the Great March of Return protests in the Gaza Strip. The protesters demanded the implementation of refugees’ right of return and an end to the crippling 11-year siege on Gaza.
Turkey recalled all its diplomats and ordered Israel’s envoy out of the country.
The last face-to-face talks between leaders came in 2008 when Erdogan met former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Ankara.
On Tuesday, a senior official told MEE that the Turkish president plans to visit Israel after its November parliamentary elections. Erdogan hasn’t visited Israel since 2005, when he was prime minister.
Earlier this week, he met with leaders of American Jewish organisations, telling them that antisemitism was a “crime against humanity”, according to a report by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
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