Netanyahu says Turkish Erdogan agrees to restore ties


TEL AVIV, Israel (TBEN) — Israel and Turkey agreed on a fresh start on Thursday, according to the office of former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Relations between the former allies became frosty under Netanyahu’s tenure. He is now expected to return to power soon as the head of Israel’s most right-wing government yet.

Relations were already on the mend under outgoing Prime Minister Yair Lapid who met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in New York in September, the first meeting between the countries’ leaders in 14 years.

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But Erdogan’s relations with Israel under Netanyahu were particularly frosty, especially because of the recurring wars against Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers and the Israeli army’s 2010 raid on the Gaza flotilla, also during Netanyahu’s rule.

Erdogan had shown willingness for warmer ties since Netanyahu was ousted last year after 12 consecutive years in power. Thursday’s statement indicated that ties under Netanyahu could continue to improve.

Netanyahu’s office said during a phone call between the two leaders on Thursday that they pledged to work together and start over. Netanyahu is trying to form a government after national elections earlier this month.

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“The two leaders agreed to work together to usher in a new era in Turkey-Israel relations,” a statement from Netanyahu’s office said.

There was no immediate comment from Erdogan’s office.

During years of tense relations, Erdogan has been an outspoken critic of Israeli policy towards the Palestinians. Israel, in turn, has objected to Turkey’s embrace of Hamas.

The once close regional allies withdrew their respective ambassadors in 2010, after Israeli forces stormed a flotilla to Gaza carrying humanitarian aid for Palestinians that broke an Israeli blockade. The incident resulted in the deaths of nine Turkish activists.

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But following Israeli President Isaac Herzog’s state visit to Turkey in March and other signs of a thaw, the two countries agreed to exchange ambassadors. They still share several strategic interests, including controlling Iran.