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Turkey says warming Israel ties will help Palestinians

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Turkey’s diplomatic thaw with Israel will help the Palestinians, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said Monday, in the first trip to Israel by Ankara’s top diplomat in 15 years Agence France-Presse reported.

Çavuşoğlu, who met Palestinian officials in the occupied West Bank on Tuesday, was in Jerusalem as Turkey and Israel seek to mend ties following a breakdown that began during an Israeli military operation in Gaza in 2008.

Çavuşoğlu and his Israeli counterpart Yair Lapid stressed that economic ties had continued to grow despite years of acrimony between the two countries.

“We won’t pretend that our relationship has not seen its ups and downs,” Lapid said.

“Even in times of political tension, economic cooperation between our countries has been constantly on the rise.”

Çavuşoğlu noted that Turkey was a top 10 trading partner for Israel and a major destination for Israeli tourists, voicing hope that deepening ties could yield benefits for Palestinians.

“We believe that normalization of our ties will have a positive impact on peaceful resolution of the conflict,” he said.

Çavuşoğlu claimed that dialogue between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Israeli counterpart Isaac Herzog helped “maintain calm” during a tense period in Jerusalem this year that saw widespread clashes as the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and the Jewish Passover holiday overlapped.

“Turkey is ready to take responsibility to continue the efforts towards (Israeli-Palestinian) dialogue,” Çavuşoğlu said.

Israel and Turkey hailed a new era in relations when Herzog met with Erdoğan in Ankara in March.

Erdoğan remains a vocal supporter of the Palestinian cause but analysts say he wants improved relations with Israel to bolster Turkey’s struggling economy, including through joint gas initiatives.

Çavuşoğlu and Lapid on Wednesday agreed to set up a formal process that would allow Israeli carriers to land in Turkey and renewed a bilateral economic commission.

The Turkish diplomat had earlier visited Jerusalem’s Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem and was headed to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, Islam’s third holiest site.

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