Erdoğan, Herzog to discuss bilateral ties in historic visit


President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is expected to welcome Israeli President Isaac Herzog to Ankara next week, marking the first visit by an Israeli head of state to the Turkish capital in nearly two decades.

The communications directorate of the Turkish presidency issued a statement on Saturday evening confirming Herzog’s two-day visit on March 9-10.

Turkey and Israel will discuss steps to improve cooperation during talks between the two countries’ presidents in Ankara, the presidency announced on Saturday, as regional rivals strive to mend long-standing ties.

As part of the rapprochement, Herzog will visit Ankara on March 9-10 at the invitation of President Erdoğan, the Turkish presidency said.

Erdoğan and Herzog will “examine all aspects of bilateral relations between Turkey and Israel” and “discuss measures that can be taken to improve cooperation”, he said.

The two presidents will also discuss “recent regional and international developments”, he added.

The Israeli president’s office confirmed on Saturday that Herzog would travel to Turkey to meet Erdoğan, in a sign of thawing ties.

Herzog will be the first Israeli president to visit Turkey for a state visit since 2003. He will be received by Erdoğan in the country’s capital on Wednesday before continuing to Istanbul, where he will meet members of the Jewish community.

“The two presidents will discuss various bilateral issues, including Israeli-Turkish relations and the potential for expanding collaboration between their respective states and peoples in various fields,” Herzog’s office said.

Relations between Turkey and Israel froze after 10 civilians were killed in an Israeli raid on a Turkish flotilla carrying aid to the Gaza Strip in 2010.

A 2015 reconciliation pact officially restored ties, but neither country has returned an ambassador to the post, with Erdoğan frequently criticizing Israeli actions in Palestine.

Israel and Turkey expelled each other’s ambassadors in 2018 and relations have remained rocky, but Ankara has recently worked to improve relations with several countries in the region as part of a normalization process launched in 2020.

In recent months, the two countries have been working on a rapprochement, Erdoğan, a staunch supporter of the Palestinian cause, having had telephone talks with Herzog.

In January, Erdoğan called Herzog’s planned visit an opportunity “to open a new chapter in Turkey-Israel relations.”

Over the past two weeks, Herzog has visited Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration to reassure them that the rapprochement with Turkey will not undermine Israel’s ties with its Mediterranean neighbors.

Herzog’s office said the visit, which will end Thursday, was coordinated with the Foreign Ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office.

Herzog’s spokesman said the visit was coordinated with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, adding it would be the first by an Israeli leader since 2008.

Ankara, which supports a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, condemned Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and its policy towards the Palestinians, while Israel called on Turkey to stop supporting the Palestinian group Hamas which rules Gaza .

While Erdoğan has spoken to Herzog before, Israel’s presidency is a largely ceremonial role. In November, he spoke to Bennett, the first such call to an Israeli prime minister in years.

Last month, Turkey said it would not abandon its commitment to a Palestinian state in order to negotiate closer ties with Israel. Erdoğan said energy cooperation could be on the agenda during talks with Herzog.

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