Israeli foreign minister to visit Turkey as relations thaw

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid will visit Turkey on Thursday in a further sign of a thaw in relations between the two countries.

Lapid’s arrival follows a call between Israeli President Isaac Herzog and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at the weekend, the fourth since March, in which Herzog praised Turkey for helping to protect Israelis from terrorist attacks.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu held meetings with Lapid in Israel late last month as part of efforts to repair relations marred by disagreements over Turkey’s support for Hamas, which is recognised as a terrorist organisation by the United States and the European Union, and tensions over mineral exploration rights in the eastern Mediterranean. It was the first visit by a senior Turkish official to Israel in about a decade and a half.

Bilateral and regional issues with be discussed during this week’s talks, Turkey’s foreign ministry said in a two-line statement on its website on Sunday.

Herzog also thanked Erdoğan for helping to thwart planned attacks by Iranian militia on Israeli citizens in Turkey. Counter-terrorism efforts must continue, he said.

Tel Aviv has also been calling on Ankara to deal with the threat posed to its security by Hamas cells on its soil as a condition for advancing ties. Turkey has denied press reports that it has expelled Hamas officials residing in the country, but has said it does not allow militants to operate from its soil. The Israeli media has said Hamas uses Istanbul as a base to plan attacks.

Israel has warned its citizens against travelling to Turkey, citing suspected assassination or abduction plots by Iran. The Iranian government has vowed to avenge the assassination of a Revolutionary Guards colonel in Tehran late last month blamed on Israeli agents. Turkey’s foreign ministry said on June 13 that it was a safe country to visit with "cooperation mechanisms for the battle with terrorism".

Çavuşoğlu spoke on Sunday with Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, expressing Turkey’s desire to “improve bilateral relations and increase mutual cooperation,” according to Iran’s Mehr News agency.

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