Turkey may fix relations with Israel if the Tel Aviv administration takes concrete steps regarding Palestine, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Wednesday.
Speaking to reporters accompanying him in Doha, Qatar, Erdoğan said Turkey may launch a similar process with Israel and Egypt if the countries take similar steps.
Noting that Turkey warmly welcomed the request of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to mend ties, Erdoğan said steps are being taken to further enhance broken relations.
“Our foreign minister and intelligence units will play an active role regarding relations with Abu Dhabi,” Erdoğan said, and added: “A similar process could happen with Israel too, why not?”
The president noted that Turkey is in favor of living in peace and establishing regional peace.
“I’d had talks with Israel in the past but Israel needs to act more sensitively regarding its regional policies on Palestine,” Erdoğan said, adding that Tel Aviv needs to act responsibly on the issue of Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Ankara would immediately start reciprocating if it sees Israel doing its part, the president said, adding that the two countries can reappoint envoys the moment Israel acknowledges actions that are considered red flags by Turkey.
Relations between Turkey and Israel hit rock bottom 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. Ten activists were killed in that raid.
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 the 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.
Erdoğan was in Doha to attend the seventh meeting of the high strategic committee with Qatar and noted that the meeting was productive and reiterated both countries’ determination to boost relations. He also said that the meeting reminded both countries that they are on the same page regarding ongoing regional problems.
Highlighting that Turkey and Qatar’s close relations greatly contribute to the region’s security and stability, Erdoğan said Qatar has always shown its friendship during difficult times, including the failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016. In response, Turkey took necessary steps to ensure that the “unjust” sanctions against Qatar imposed by the UAE, Saudi Arabia and others were defeated.
“As Turkey, we do not see the Gulf’s stability and security separately from ours,” Erdoğan said, adding that Turkey hopes relations between all countries in the Gulf reach even more advanced levels.
Last month, Erdoğan hosted Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan (MBZ), as Turkey and the UAE seek to repair their relations and increase economic cooperation.
The crown prince’s visit to Turkey was viewed as part of a wider effort by the UAE to recalibrate its foreign policy following an unsuccessful attempt to isolate fellow Gulf state Qatar in 2017.
Turkey, an ally of Qatar, rushed to support Doha amid the embargo imposed by the UAE and three Arab states in 2017 and has since deepened its military ties with Qatar. The Arab quartet at the time demanded a series of reversals by Qatar, including the expulsion of Turkish troops, but Doha rejected the demands, which it saw as violations of its sovereignty. The dispute was resolved earlier this year with an agreement signed in Saudi Arabia.
Ankara had welcomed the outcome of a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) meeting, asserting that "the expression of common will to resolve the Gulf dispute and the announcement of the restoration of diplomatic relations with Qatar at the end of the 41st Gulf Cooperation Council held today in Al-Ula, Saudi Arabia, is a welcome development."
The president noted that he had talks with Qatari officials regarding the operation of Kabul Hamid Karzai International Airport in Afghanistan and that Qatar and Turkey named private companies regarding the matter.
“These companies will hold talks together and at the same time will also hold discussions with the Taliban,” Erdoğan said, adding that they will undertake the airport’s operation if the necessary conditions, including security, are met.
After the Taliban seized control of the country, Turkey offered technical and security assistance at the airport and Taliban officials had asked both Turkey and Qatar to operate the airport.
NATO member Turkey maintained its embassy in Afghanistan after Western countries withdrew following the Taliban takeover and has urged those countries to step up engagement. At the same time, it said it will only work fully with the Taliban if they form a more inclusive administration.
Erdoğan also criticized the United States for calling to unite against the threat of terrorism on one side and providing arms, ammunition and equipment to terrorist groups on the other.
He elaborated that despite all contact with U.S. officials, Washington continues its “wrong” policies in the region.
The president underlined that security forces continue their operations against terrorism. He added that thanks to these efforts, peace and stability prevail in the streets of eastern and southeastern provinces of Turkey.
The PKK is a designated terrorist organization in the U.S., Turkey and the European Union, and Washington's support for its Syrian affiliate has been a major strain on bilateral relations with Ankara. The U.S. primarily partnered with the PKK's offshoot branch, the YPG, in northeastern Syria in its fight against the Daesh terrorist group. On the other hand, Turkey strongly opposed the YPG's presence in northern Syria. Ankara has long objected to the U.S.' support for the YPG, a group that poses a threat to Turkey and that terrorizes local people, destroying their homes and forcing them to flee.
Under the pretext of fighting Daesh, the U.S. has provided military training and given truckloads of military support to the YPG, despite its NATO ally's security concerns. Underlining that one cannot support one terrorist group to defeat another, Turkey conducted its own counterterrorism operations, over the course of which it has managed to remove a significant number of terrorists from the region.
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