Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met in person for the first time on Tuesday, marking a crucial milestone in the ongoing effort to mend strained relations between the two nations. The backdrop of their encounter is a history of disagreements, particularly regarding policies concerning the Palestinians.
The meeting took place on the sidelines of the annual United Nations General Assembly, where both leaders concurred on the prospect of reciprocal visits to each other's respective countries in the near future. This accord was officially confirmed through a statement issued by Netanyahu's office.
Notably, Israeli news outlet Channel 12 TV reported a potential significant development wherein President Erdogan might consider commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Turkish republic next month with a visit to a prominent mosque in Jerusalem. However, it's important to underline that this information has not been officially substantiated.
This landmark meeting is rooted in a significant deterioration of relations that began in 2010 when Israeli forces conducted a raid on a pro-Palestinian activist ship attempting to breach the blockade on the Gaza Strip, resulting in the tragic deaths of 10 Turkish citizens. This incident led to the expulsion of Israel's ambassador by Ankara, a move that was eventually reversed in 2016 but later reinstated in 2018 in response to violent protests at the Gaza border.
The recent thaw in relations between the two countries can be attributed to a series of diplomatic initiatives, including the visit of Israeli President Isaac Herzog to Turkey in March 2022, followed by visits from both foreign ministers.
During their highly anticipated meeting, President Erdogan and Prime Minister Netanyahu engaged in comprehensive discussions covering a wide array of subjects, including political matters, economic cooperation, regional affairs, and a particular emphasis on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, as conveyed by a statement from the Turkish Presidency on the social media platform X.
Of note, President Erdogan underscored the immense potential for collaboration between Turkey and Israel in key areas such as energy, technology, innovation, artificial intelligence, and cyber security. Notably, energy cooperation emerged as a central point of interest during their deliberations.
It's worth mentioning that Turkey initiated a diplomatic charm offensive in 2020 with the aim of restoring relations with estranged regional partners, which include Egypt, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Israel. The face-to-face meeting between President Erdogan and Prime Minister Netanyahu stands as a significant advancement in this broader diplomatic endeavor, signifying a positive step towards improved relations in a region often marked by tensions and conflicts.
[With information sourced from Reuters]