Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, whose health is a frequent subject of debate and speculation, is receiving medical advice from an Israeli cardiologist, according to an Israeli news website.
Ynetnews, the English-language web edition of the Yedioth Ahronot newspaper, reported on Thursday that the deputy director-general of the Sourasky Medical Center in Tel Aviv, Professor Itzhak Shapira, advises Erdoğan.
“He is a trained cardiologist, which might suggest the Turkish leader is dealing with heart problems, but there is no official information to support that speculation,” said the website.
Ynetnews referred to Shapira as the overseer of medical tourism at the hospital who advises world leaders on medical issues and treatments.
Sources familiar with the relationship between Erdoğan and Shapira say they “won’t be surprised if they met in Turkey.”
Sourasky Medical Center and Shapira have declined to comment.
There is growing speculation in Turkey about the health of Erdoğan, who will turn 68 in February. He was seen in public and in videos in the past months walking or speaking with difficulty or dozing off in front of the cameras.
In an apparent bid to dismiss speculation about his health, Erdoğan shared a video of him playing basketball on his Telegram channel in October. In the video he was seen wearing uniform number 15 with “R. Tayyip Erdoğan” printed on it. He was also the team captain and was seen encouraging his teammates.
The president was joined by former NBA star and current Turkish Basketball Federation (TBF) head Hidayet Türkoğlu.
Rumors about Erdoğan’s health have been circulating for years, with one of his doctors going on record in 2011 to deny that the Turkish leader had cancer.
In 2011, Erdoğan, then prime minister, underwent laparoscopic gastrointestinal surgery and has been walking more carefully ever since.
Meanwhile, Erdoğan announced on Monday that his Israeli counterpart, Isaac Herzog, might soon make an official state visit.
Speaking to reporters, Erdoğan floated the idea of the two nations signing an energy deal, owing to their location on the coasts of the gas-rich Mediterranean.
“Politics is not a struggle, we must take politics to a line of peace,” he said.
A senior source confirmed that Herzog has been mulling traveling to Turkey but said a final decision has yet to be made.
Ties between Israel and Turkey have been tense since a Turkish NGO oversaw a flotilla of ships that tried to break Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip in 2010.