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Turkey withdraws invitation to Israeli energy minister over attacks on Palestinians

Ankara reacts to Israeli violence at al-Aqsa Mosque and in Gaza by cancelling an official invitation due to 'Israeli mistreatment of the Palestinians'
Protesters wave Palestinian and Turkish flags during a demonstration in front of the Israeli consulate in Istanbul on 10 May 2021 (AFP)
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Istanbul

Turkey has withdrawn an invitation extended to Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz for an international diplomacy conference hosted in Antalya in June, following the recent attacks on Palestinians by Israeli security forces.

Turkish news agency Anadolu reported on Tuesday that the Turkish government had cancelled the invitation due to “Israeli mistreatment of the Palestinians".

Had Steinitz attended the event, it would have been the first such high-level visit to Turkey by an Israeli official in years.

The Antalya Diplomacy Forum, which is sponsored by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is a two-day international conference which it says is trying to function “as a dialogue platform” by bringing together leading figures from politics, academia and the business world every year. This year’s theme has been determined as: “Innovative Diplomacy: A new age, new approaches."

Turkey and Israel have been conducting talks to repair their downgraded relations since last year through intelligence agencies.

However, Turkey’s tone has changed drastically amid Palestinian anger and protests over proposed evictions from the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of occupied East Jerusalem and attacks by Israeli security forces on Palestinians gathered for prayers at al-Aqsa Mosque on Friday, and again on Monday.

Erdogan over the weekend called Israel a “terror state” and condemnations from senior Turkish officials followed the president's comments.

Erdogan also made a series of phone calls to regional heads of states, including those of Jordan, Qatar and Kuwait, to coordinate a response to the Israeli "aggression".

Thousands of Turkish citizens also took the streets last night both in Istanbul and Ankara outside the Israeli diplomatic missions to protest against the Israeli treatment of Palestinians, defying a Covid lockdown and calling for Turkey to send soldiers to al-Aqsa Mosque.