Turkish FM makes rare visit to Israel as nations mend ties

May 24, 2022, 8:01 PM | Updated: May 25, 2022, 8:05 am

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu visits the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old Cit...

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu visits the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old City, Wednesday, May 25, 2022. (AP Photo/ Mahmoud Illean)

(AP Photo/ Mahmoud Illean)

JERUSALEM (AP) — Turkey’s foreign minister visited Israel on Wednesday as part of ongoing efforts to improve ties between the two countries, which have often been bitterly divided in recent years over Turkey’s support for the Palestinians.

Mevlut Cavusoglu, on the first official visit to Israel by a Turkish official in 15 years, said that normalizing ties with Israel and addressing disagreements in a “constructive manner” will contribute to a peaceful resolution to the Mideast conflict.

He prayed at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in east Jerusalem, a major holy site at the heart of recent unrest in the region. It is the third holiest site in Islam and is built on a hilltop that is the holiest site for Jews, who refer to it as the Temple Mount.

Cavusoglu said talks between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Israeli counterpart Isaac Herzog had helped calm tensions in Jerusalem during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which ended in early May.

“Working on a positive agenda can also help us to address our disagreements in a more constructive manner,” Cavusoglu told reporters.

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, speaking at the same press conference, said the two countries “have always known how to return to dialogue and cooperation.”

“Nations with long histories always know how to close one chapter and open a new one. That is what we are doing here today,” he said.

Turkey, beset by economic troubles, has been trying to end its international isolation by normalizing ties with several countries in the Mideast, including Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

Cavusoglu also met with Palestinian officials in the occupied West Bank, where he reiterated Turkey’s support for their struggle for an independent state alongside Israel.

Israel captured the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza in the 1967 Mideast war. The Palestinians want all three territories to form their future state. There have been no serious peace talks for more than a decade.

“We believe that normalization of our ties will also have a positive impact on peaceful resolution of the conflict,” Cavusoglu said.

He also visited Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial, on Wednesday.

Turkey and Israel were once close allies, but relations grew tense under Erdogan, who is a vocal critic of Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians. Turkey has also embraced the Islamic militant group Hamas, which Israel and Western countries view as a terrorist group.

The countries withdrew their ambassadors in 2010 after Israeli forces stormed a humanitarian flotilla bound for Gaza, which has been under an Israeli-Egyptian blockade since Hamas seized power there in 2007.

Nine Turkish activists were killed. Israel apologized to Turkey for the deaths under a U.S.-brokered agreement, but reconciliation efforts stalled.

Turkey recalled its ambassador in 2018 after the United States recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, prompting Israel to respond in kind. The two countries have not reappointed their ambassadors.

The latest attempt at a rapprochement has been led by Herzog, Israel’s mostly ceremonial president, who visited Turkey in March, becoming the first Israeli leader to do so in 14 years.

Herzog spoke at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Wednesday, the same annual gathering where Erdogan famously stormed off the stage after a sharp exchange with Israel’s then-President Shimon Peres about Gaza in 2009.

Taking questions after his speech, Herzog acknowledged that the process with Turkey was “not a lullaby of Romeo and Juliet,” but based on mutual interests. He also referenced the earlier exchange at Davos.

“We have our ups and downs with Turkey,” Herzog said. “I’m very pleased that I have an open, frank dialogue with President Erdogan which is leading in the right direction.”


Associated Press writer Ilan Ben Zion in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Photo: A delegate wears a hat with pins during the Republican National Convention Monday, July 15, ...

Christine Fernando, Steve People and Jill Colvin, The Associated Press

Rep. Walsh speaks for Washington as cheering GOP delegates nominate Trump for president

Cheering GOP delegates formally nominated Donald Trump for president at Monday's Republican National Convention kickoff.

2 days ago

Photo: Sen. J.D. Vance, R-Ohio, right, points toward Republican presidential candidate former Presi...

Jill Colvin, Julie Carr Smyth, Steve Peoples and Zeke Miller, The Associated Press

Trump picks Sen. JD Vance of Ohio, a once-fierce critic turned loyal ally, as his GOP running mate

Donald Trump named Sen. JD Vance of Ohio as his running mate, choosing a onetime critic who became a loyal ally.

2 days ago

trump assassination...

Ayanna Alexander, The Associated Press

What to know about Trump assassination attempt and the investigation into the shooting

Authorities want to know how a shooter was able to get on top of a roof so close to where former President Donald Trump was speaking and open fire.

3 days ago

Photo: Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is surrounded by U.S. Secret...

Julie Carr Smyth, Jill Colvin, Colleen Long, Michael Balsamo, Eric Tucker and Michelle L. Price, The Associated Press

Trump heads to convention as authorities investigate motive, security in assassination attempt

Trump called for unity and resilience after an attempt on his life added fresh uncertainty to an already tumultuous presidential campaign.

3 days ago

Photo: President Joe Biden speaks from the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, Sunday,...

Will Weissert and Zeke Miller, The Associated Press

In primetime address, Biden says country must not go down road of political violence

President Joe Biden says “we can’t, we must not go down” the road of political violence in America after the attempted Trump assassination.

3 days ago

Photo: President Joe Biden speaks at a news conference following the NATO Summit in Washington, Thu...

Zeke Miller, Seung Min Kim, Lisa Mascaro and Colleen Long, The Associated Press

Biden says during news conference he’s going to ‘complete the job’ despite calls to bow out

Biden used his highly anticipated news conference to deliver a defense of his policies and batted away questions about his ability to serve.

6 days ago

Turkish FM makes rare visit to Israel as nations mend ties