Welcoming Herzog on historic visit, Erdogan hails ‘turning point’ in relations

President Isaac Herzog met Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday afternoon, shortly after landing in Ankara for a historic 24-hour visit.

In remarks to the media, Erdogan said he believed “this historic visit will be a turning point in relations between Turkey and Israel. Strengthening relations with the State of Israel is of great value to our country.

He noted that the meeting with Herzog included a discussion of events in Ukraine and the Eastern Mediterranean and said he believed “the coming period will bring new opportunities for regional and bilateral cooperation.”

The Turkish leader expressed hope that “this important visit, which comes after so long, will provide an opening for future joint opportunities.”

Speaking after Erdogan, Herzog thanked the Turkish President for his warm welcome and said in Turkish: “My wife and I are very happy to be in Turkey as guests.”

Addressing the meeting with Erdogan, Herzog said the leaders held “productive” talks and discussed many issues.

“This is a very important moment in the relations between our countries, and I think it is a great privilege for both of us to lay the foundations for the culture of friendly relations between our States and our peoples, and to build bridges which are essential for all of us,” he said.

“The relationship between our peoples is ancient, with strong historical, religious and cultural roots. The long line of magnificent Jewish leaders, rabbis, poets, sages, merchants and entrepreneurs is only part of the history of the Jewish people here on this earth,” he said.

“I believe that the relationship between our countries will be judged by actions reflecting a spirit of mutual respect and will allow us to better face the regional and global challenges that are common to us all,” he added.

Herzog’s trip marks the highest-level visit by an Israeli official since former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made the trip in 2008, and is seen as an important step towards reviving longstanding relations between the two. country.

The president arrived on a plane emblazoned with the words “peace,” “future,” and “partnership” in Hebrew, Turkish, and English.

Arriving at the presidential compound in Ankara, Herzog was greeted by Erdogan and an honor guard, as a band played the Israeli anthem for the first time since 2008.

Herzog and his wife Michal were to be hosted by Erdoghan for a state dinner.

Despite high hopes for a possible diplomatic breakthrough at the meetings, the sides are not expected to discuss or announce the installation of full ambassadors in each other’s capitals, a Foreign Ministry source told Reuters. Times of Israel.

Herzog’s visit to the Turkish capital and Istanbul was scheduled weeks before Russia invaded Ukraine, but the dispute could feature in the talks, with Israel and Turkey playing a mediating role in recent days.

But bilateral issues are expected to dominate after more than a decade of diplomatic rifts between the Jewish state and Muslim-majority Turkey.

Before his meeting with Erdogan, Herzog visited the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founding father of modern Turkey, and laid a wreath.

Signing a guest book at the memorial, the Israeli president wished for a “safer and more stable world” for Israel and Turkey.

“It is a distinct privilege to visit this historic site, immortalizing the great visionary Mustafa Kemal Ataturk,” he wrote in English.

“May we follow in the wisdom of this great leader’s legacy of progress and peace, boldly choosing the path of collaboration and welcoming the many fruits to be reaped from the promise of a safer and more stable for our nations, our religions, our region and the world,” he added.

The President and the First Lady also visited the Anıtkabir Ataturk Museum.

President Isaac Herzog lays a wreath at the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founding father of modern Turkey, March 9, 2022 (Haim Zach/GPO.)

Before leaving on the trip, Herzog said rekindling relations with Turkey would not be easy, but it would benefit the Middle East as a whole.

“Relations between Israel and Turkey are important for Israel, important for Turkey and important for the whole region,” he said.

“I hope that after my visit, a deep and serious dialogue process with Turkey will start at different levels, and we will eventually see progress with positive relations and results,” he said, noting that his trip was in full coordination with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid.

President Isaac Herzog (left) meets with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan outside the presidential compound in Ankara on March 9, 2022. (Haim Zach/GPO)

Turkey and Israel were once close allies, but the relationship has frayed under Erdogan, who is openly critical of Israel’s policy toward the Palestinians. Israel has also been angered by Erdogan’s affiliation with Hamas, the terror group that controls the Gaza Strip and is committed to destroying Israel.

The countries withdrew their respective ambassadors in 2010 after Israeli forces stormed a Gaza-bound flotilla carrying humanitarian aid for Palestinians that broke an Israeli blockade. The incident resulted in the deaths of 10 Turkish activists.

Relations improved and then broke again in 2018 when Turkey, angered by the US moving its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, once again recalled its ambassador, prompting Israel to respond accordingly. The two countries have not reinstated their ambassadors.

The steps towards a rapprochement with Israel come as an economically troubled Turkey tries to end its international isolation by normalizing relations with several countries in the Middle East region, including Egypt, the Emirates United Arabs and Saudi Arabia.

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