Sep 20, 2022 - World

Turkish president and Israeli PM hold first in-person meeting since 2008

Lapid and Erdogan
Lapid and Erdogan in New York. Photo: Israeli GPO

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid met on Tuesday in New York to discuss boosting bilateral relations after a long diplomatic crisis between the countries.

Why it matters: It was the first in-person meeting between Erdoğan and an Israeli prime minister since December 2008 when the Turkish leader met then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Ankara.

  • The meeting, which took place at the Turkish Consulate and was closed to the press, was the most recent step in the normalization process between Israel and Turkey that began in June 2021.

What they're saying: In his speech in front of the UN General Assembly earlier Tuesday, Erdoğan said the only solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that will benefit all sides is one that includes a Palestinian state with a capital in East Jerusalem.

  • During their meeting, Lapid thanked Erdoğan for intelligence cooperation during an Israeli-Turkish effort to prevent an alleged Iranian plot to attack Israeli tourists in Istanbul, according to a readout of the meeting by the Israeli Prime Minister's Office.
  • The two leaders also discussed economic and energy cooperation, the Israeli Prime Minister's Office said.

State of play: Lapid and Erdoğan have spoken twice on the phone since Lapid took office earlier this year.

  • Last month, Israel and Turkey announced the full normalization of relations and the return of their ambassadors to Ankara and Tel Aviv after four years of downgraded representation.
  • Both countries also signed a civil aviation agreement that will allow Israeli airlines to resume their flights to Turkey.
  • The Israeli Foreign Ministry announced on Monday the appointment of veteran diplomat Irit Lillian as Israel’s ambassador to Ankara. Lillian had previously served as charge d’affaires.

After his meeting with Erdoğan on Tuesday, Lapid met with the prime minister of Greece. Israeli officials said Lapid wanted to make clear that the mending of relations with Turkey is not at the expense of Israel’s alliance with Greece.

Flashback: The last meeting Erdoğan had with an Israeli prime minister was dramatic. At the time, Erdoğan was mediating between Olmert and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

  • Olmert sat next to Erdoğan as the Turkish president talked to Assad on the phone, passing messages between the two leaders for several hours in an attempt to reach a diplomatic breakthrough.
  • Several days after that meeting, Israel began a military operation in Gaza. From that point on, the relations between Turkey and Israel began to sour, with the crisis lasting more than a decade.

What’s next: Erdoğan told U.S. Jewish leaders on Monday that he wants to visit Israel but stressed no date has been set yet for such a trip, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with details from the readout of the meeting from the Israeli Prime Minister's Office.

Go deeper