Diplomatic talks are ongoing with Israel, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said in a press conference late Tuesday, underlining that his counterpart Isaac Herzog may visit Turkey soon.
“Prime Minister Naftali Bennett also has a positive approach,” Erdoğan also said, emphasizing Israeli government’s willingness to fully normalize relations with Turkey.
The president also touched upon the tensions in the Middle East and cooperation in the field of energy between Turkey and Israel.
“We previously had some progress in transport of Israeli gas to Europe through Turkey,” President Erdoğan said.
“We, politicians, exist to maintain peace, not war,” Erdoğan also added, further underlining that Turkey may use energy “as a tool for peace” if possible.
“If not, every country will decide for itself. We have not bought seismic research vessels for nothing,” the president added.
“Through those vessels, we will continue pursuing new opportunities for our nation and the region.”
Relations between Turkey and Israel hit their nadir in 2010 following an Israeli naval raid on a Turkish aid ship, the Mavi Marmara, en route to deliver humanitarian aid to the blockaded Gaza Strip. The raid killed 10 activists.
The event caused an unprecedented crisis in Turkish-Israeli relations that had been peaceful for decades. Both countries even recalled their diplomatic envoys following the incident.
In 2013, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's apology to Turkey and the payment of $20 million (about TL 38 million at the time) in compensation to the Mavi Marmara victims, Turkish-Israeli relations entered a period of normalization.
In December 2016, both countries reappointed ambassadors as part of the reconciliation deal and reiterated several times the necessity to further improve bilateral relations.
However, Turkish officials continue to criticize Israel’s policies targeting Palestinians, including the illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem and the humanitarian situation in Gaza.
Turkish citizens have also been complaining about Israel’s arbitrary restrictions on visits. However, Israel's informal policy of deportation, visa rejection, arbitrary detention and delay of Turkish nationals for no reason at airports has failed to discourage hundreds of visitors each year.
Known for its unbreakable solidarity with the Palestinians, Turkey has been voicing support for the Palestinian cause in the international realm for decades. Turkish authorities emphasize that the only way to achieve lasting peace and stability in the Middle East is through a fair and comprehensive solution to the Palestinian issue within the framework of international law and United Nations resolutions.