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Turkey: Delegation to visit Israel, Palestine ahead of Herzog's trip

Turkish officials will meet Israeli and Palestinian counterparts to discuss Israeli president's visit to Turkey in March
Ibrahim Kalin, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's top foreign policy adviser, will lead a delegation to Israel and Palestine (AFP)
By Ragip Soylu in Ankara

A Turkish delegation, led by presidential spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin and Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Onal, will visit Israel and Palestine on Wednesday, the Turkish government said in a statement. 

Kalin and Onal will meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and engage with other Palestinian officials in Ramallah. The delegation will later visit Israel and hold discussions with their counterparts on Israeli President Isaac Herzog’s upcoming visit to Turkey. 

Kalin, in remarks to Turkish media on Tuesday, said that Herzog would visit Turkey on 9 March. 

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The Israeli government, in a press statement, said that the delegation would meet Eyal Shuiki, the Israeli president's director-general, and senior officials of the country's foreign ministry. 

In December, Alon Ushpiz, the Israeli director-general for the foreign ministry, secretly paid a visit to Kalin to discuss recently improved Israeli-Turkish relations, according to both Turkish and Israeli sources.

The Turkish delegation was making this return visit as part of further consultations to lay the groundwork for Herzog’s trip, Turkish officials said. 

After a recent series of phone calls between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Israeli counterparts, both governments released positive statements on the future of bilateral relations. 

'Ready to improve relations'

Erdogan last month said that Turkey was still interested in bringing Israeli gas to Europe

"We have now reached [a level]. We speak to Israeli President Herzog. Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett also is [communicating] with us at different levels,” Erdogan said. “If we are policymaking, this cannot be with fight or quarrel. We have to maintain the policy within the line of peace.” 

In December, Erdogan met with members of the Alliance of Rabbis in Islamic States and made several gestures to Israel. At the meeting, he spoke out against antisemitism and said that Turkey-Israel relations were “vital” for the security and stability of the region.

“We are ready to improve our relations,” he added.

As a vocal supporter of the Palestinian cause, the Turkish president has regularly accused Israel of "terrorism" against Palestinians, straining relations between the two countries.

In 2015, Erdogan told his ruling Justice and Development Party's parliamentary group meeting in Ankara: "Israel is continuing to carry out state terrorism in the region. Nobody, except us, tells it to stop.

"In Palestine, innocent children are not the only ones who are being killed. Global justice is being killed there too. The day will come when Israel will pay a price for shedding innocent Palestinians' blood."

In 2018, Turkey and Israel expelled each other's ambassadors, after Ankara protested against the killing of 60 Palestinians during protests on the Gaza border against the opening of the US embassy in occupied Jerusalem.

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