Israel and Turkey hail new era of relations following ‘historic visit’

Erdogan calls meeting with Israeli president a turning point, and condemns anti-Semitism

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Israeli counterpart Yitzhak Herzog have heralded a new era in relations during the first visit by an Israeli leader to Ankara since 2008.

Speaking after a two-hour meeting at the presidential palace in Ankara, Mr Erdogan said he believed that “this historic visit” will be a turning point in relations.

"Strengthening relations with Israel is of great value for our countries and stability and peace in the region," he said. He also condemned anti-Semitism as a "crime against humanity".

The two leaders stopped short of declaring a resumption of diplomatic relations but it was agreed that Turkey’s foreign minister Mevlüt Çavusoglu will visit Israel next month and the two countries agreed to establish a mechanism to work out disagreements.


Turkey's minister for energy will also visit Israel, and Ankara wants a natural gas pipeline to run from Israel to Europe via Turkey.

Mr Herzog admitted to “a drought” in bilateral relations in recent years.

“Now I believe the relationship between our countries will be judged by deeds reflecting a spirit of mutual respect and will enable us to better confront the regional and global challenges that are common to us all,” he said.

Close ties

Hamas, which rules in Gaza, has offices in Turkey and has enjoyed close ties with Ankara. Mr Herzog made it clear that the Turkish-Hamas ties makes it difficult for Israel to agree to the restoration of full diplomatic relations.

Hamas criticised the invitation to Mr Herzog, expressing concern over visits by “leaders from the Zionist entity in a number of Arab and Islamic countries”.

Israel and Turkey enjoyed extremely close ties – including military and intelligence co-operation – following the Israeli-Palestinian peace agreements in the mid-1990s, but relations began to deteriorate in 2008 when then prime minister Ehud Olmert met with Mr Erdogan and launched a war in Gaza days later.

In 2010, nine activists aboard a Turkish ship trying to break the siege on Gaza were killed by Israeli naval commandos. In 2018, Turkey expelled the Israeli ambassador in protest against the killing of Palestinian protesters on the Gaza border.

During the long period of frosty relations Mr Erdogan referred to Israel on more than one occasion as “murderers” and made comments deemed anti-Semitic by Israel.

The gradual rapprochement began after the new Israeli government was elected last year, which coincided with a decline in the Turkish economy and Ankara’s growing isolation in the region while Israel forged new ties with Sunni Arab states.

During recent years Israel has developed a close trilateral alliance with Greece and Cyprus, and Mr Herzog visited both countries in recent weeks to assure them that Israel's improving ties with Ankara will not be at their expense.