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Turkey-Israel relations important for Middle East stability, says Erdogan

Renewed ties between Turkey and Israel were expected following former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's ousting
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on 12 July congratulated new Israeli President Yitzak Hertzog for assuming office over the phone (AFP/File photo)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has reached out to his new Israeli counterpart, congratulating him for assuming office and underlining the importance of their bilateral relationship. 

Erdogan spoke to newly-sworn-in Israeli President Yitzak Hertzog over the phone on Monday. During the call, the Turkish president said he emphasised the important roles Israel and Turkey play in ensuring security and stability in the Middle East.

The two also spoke about the potential for "high cooperation" in fields of energy, tourism and technology, Erdogan said after the call. 

Hertzog acknowledged the call in a tweet later on Monday, saying both heads of state "emphasized that Israeli-Turkish relations are of great importance for security and stability in the Middle East" and that they "agreed on the continuation of a dialogue in order to improve relations between our countries".

The discussion came just days after Erdogan met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Istanbul. Following that meeting, the Turkish president said that peace and stability in the region would not be possible as long as the Israeli occupation continues.

A new era?

But sources from within the Erdogan government in June told Middle East Eye that the current administration had been hopeful that a new era between Israel and Turkey could begin after former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stepped down. 

Ending a 12-year rule, Naftali Bennet took office on 13 June, with President Hertzog's swearing-in just weeks later. 

Relations between Israel and Turkey have been rocky at best, having witnessed several falling outs in recent years, expelling ambassadors in 2018 despite strong commercial ties. 

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Acknowledging past disagreements, Erdogan said communication between Israel and Turkey should be maintained regardless of any potential disputes in the future. 

Erdogan said Israel's efforts to mend relations with Turkey could also have a positive effect on the outcome of the Israeli occupation of Palestine. The Turkish president also noted that the international community expects a permanent, comprehensive two-state solution within the framework of UN resolutions. 

Ankara has repeatedly condemned Israel's occupation of the West Bank, the siege of Gaza and the treatment of Palestinians.

Speaking about Turkey's relationship with Israel in December, Erdogan stressed that the issues lay at the top of government. He also noted that Israel's "Palestine policy is our red line". 

"It is impossible for us to accept Israel's Palestine policies," he said at the time. "Their merciless acts there are unacceptable." 

Strained ties under Erdogan's government were inflamed in 2010 when Israeli commandos stormed the Mavi Marmara, part of a flotilla seeking to breach Israel's blockade of Gaza, killing eight Turkish nationals and an American-Turkish activist, while another Turkish national later succumbed to his injuries.

In 2016, the two countries restored ties in a reconciliation deal that included them appointing ambassadors, ending sanctions between each other, and Israel agreeing to pay compensation to the victims' families.