Turkish officials in Jerusalem ahead of Israeli visit

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Senior Turkish officials held meetings in Jerusalem Thursday ahead of a rare visit by Israeli President Isaac Herzog to Turkey, Agence France-Presse reported, citing Israeli officials.

“The parties discussed preparations for the visit of Israeli President Isaac Herzog to Turkey, bilateral ties between the two countries, as well as various regional issues,” Herzog’s office and the Israeli Foreign Ministry said in a joint statement.

Herzog met with İbrahim Kalın, senior adviser to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, as well as Sedat Önal, the deputy foreign minister.

“Turkey and Israel have broad influence in the region, and both have agreed that the rehabilitation of relations can contribute to regional stability,” the Israeli statement added.

In a television interview last month, Erdoğan said he expected Herzog to visit, hailing the trip as an opportunity to “open a new chapter in relations between Turkey and Israel.”

Turkey’s state-run TRT television has reported the trip would take place on March 9 and 10, but Israel has given no confirmation of the date.

Erdoğan has also said he was ready to cooperate with Israel on a gas pipeline project in the eastern Mediterranean.

Relations between majority-Muslim Turkey and Israel froze over after the death of 10 civilians in an Israeli raid on a Turkish flotilla carrying aid for the Gaza Strip in 2010, the Palestinian coastal enclave.

In recent months, the two countries have been working on a rapprochement, with Erdoğan, a vocal supporter of the Palestinian cause, holding telephone talks with Herzog.

In November, Erdoğan also spoke to Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, in a rare exchange between the two countries, the first such contact between an Israeli prime minister and Erdoğan since 2013.

The call that came a few hours after an Israeli couple held in Turkey for a week on suspicion of espionage were released.

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