May 25, 2022 - World

Turkish foreign minister visits Israel for first time in 15 years

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu (left) and Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid on May 25. Photo: Cem Ozdel/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu (left) and Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid on May 25. Photo: Cem Ozdel/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and his Turkish counterpart Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu agreed in their meeting in Jerusalem today to renew the work of a joint economic committee between the countries and launch talks on a civil aviation agreement.

  • But the two ministers didn’t announce the reappointment of ambassadors in Ankara and Tel Aviv as Turkey wanted.

Why it matters: It is the first visit to Israel by a Turkish foreign minister in 15 years. It comes as part of a slow process of normalizing relations between the countries after long-standing tensions.

Flashback: Turkey began signaling its willingness to improve relations with Israel after the Biden administration took office, and even more so after the new government in Israel was sworn in a year ago.

  • The slow and gradual normalization process led to a summit in Ankara between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Israeli counterpart, Isaac Herzog, in March.

Driving the news: The Turkish foreign minister landed in Israel yesterday and traveled to Ramallah in the occupied West Bank to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. He stressed the warming of relations with Israel won’t change Turkish support for the Palestinians.

  • Lapid and Çavuşoğlu met privately today in Jerusalem for more than an hour and then again in a wider forum with other officials. Çavuşoğlu didn’t meet Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.
  • Çavuşoğlu also made a “private visit” to the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Old City of Jerusalem and met the Turkish community in Israel.

What they're saying: "We can’t pretend there were no ups and downs in the relationship … but we need to know to close one chapter and start a new chapter in the relations," Lapid said after the meeting in joint press statements.

  • The Turkish foreign minister said that regardless of the differences between the countries, the renewed dialogue is beneficial to the whole region.
  • “We have sensitivity and concern about Jerusalem and Haram al-Sharif [Al-Aqsa Mosque]. The normalization between us will have a positive influence on the peace process," Çavuşoğlu said.

What to watch: Israeli officials said Çavuşoğlu's visit was very important, but stressed Israel does not want to rush the normalization process.

  • The talks between the countries on returning the ambassadors are expected to continue in the coming weeks.
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