Erdoğan says Turkey seeks better relations with Israel

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President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said Turkey would like to improve ties with Israel, emphasizing that talks at the intelligence level were taking place between the two countries but that Israel’s Palestine policies continue to be a red line for Ankara.

Following Friday prayers in İstanbul, the president told reporters that Turkey had issues with “people at the top” in Israel and that relations could have been “very different” if it were not for those issues.

“The Palestine policy is our red line. It is not possible for us to accept Israel’s Palestine policies. Their merciless acts there are unacceptable,” Erdoğan said.

Underlining that relations between Turkey and Israel could have been very different if it weren’t for the issues at the highest level, the president said, “We would like to bring our ties to a better point.”

Erdoğan’s remarks came after Al-Monitor reported early in December that Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) had been having secret talks with Israeli officials as part of an effort launched by the Turkish government to normalize relations.

According to the report, three sources speaking on condition of anonymity confirmed that meetings, specifically aimed at upgrading ties back to the ambassador level, had taken place in November, with MİT chief Hakan Fidan representing Turkey in at least one of them.

There has been no ambassador in either country since May 2018, when the two countries had a bitter falling out, despite strong commercial ties, over Turkey’s reaction to Israeli attacks on Gaza and Washington’s decision to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The bilateral ties came under further strain when Erdoğan denounced Israel’s West Bank annexation plan, vowing to prevent its implementation.

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