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Israeli president wishes Erdoğan speedy recovery from COVID

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Israeli President Isaac Herzog spoke on the phone with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Sunday and wished the Turkish leader a speedy recovery from COVID-19, the Israeli Haaretz newspaper reported.

Erdoğan, a press release from Herzog’s office said, thanked Herzog for his concern. The Turkish president announced that he and his wife had tested positive for the coronavirus “with mild symptoms” on Saturday.

The phone call is the fourth between the two presidents since Herzog’s term in office began in July, but this is the first one that the Israeli president initiated.

Last month, Erdoğan announced that Herzog would be visiting Turkey amid strained Turkish-Israeli ties. On Saturday Erdoğan said Herzog would arrive in mid-March.

Although Erdoğan had announced several times that Herzog would be visiting Ankara, Sunday marks the first time that the Israeli president’s office acknowledged a “possible visit.”

Last week Israeli sources said Herzog had likely not responded to Erdoğan’s invitation due to Israel’s suspicion of recent Turkish efforts to improve relations between the two countries.

While the office of the Israeli president in Jerusalem had declined to comment until Sunday, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has in fact provided a glimpse into the reservations of Israeli politicians regarding Turkish efforts at a rapprochement.

“I don’t rule out the meeting of our president with Erdoğan,” Bennett told Haaretz. He expressed doubts about Turkey’s intentions but said he prefers to “play in all courts, to lead to stability in the Middle East and focus efforts on Iran.”

Relations between majority-Muslim Turkey and Israel were suspended over after the death of nine civilians in an Israeli raid on a Turkish flotilla carrying aid for the Gaza Strip in 2010.

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