Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that Turkey hopes to improve its relations with Israel “to bring our ties to a better point.”
Speaking to reporters today he said that Turkey has not fully cut off its relations with Israel and continues to cooperate with the country in the intelligence field.
“The main problem right now is about individuals at the top,” Erdogan said. “The Palestine policy is our red line. It is impossible for us to accept Israel’s Palestine policies. Their merciless acts there are unacceptable… If there were no issues at the top level, our ties could have been very different.”
Recent reports claimed that Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has been trying to mend relations between the two countries. According to the Israeli website Walla!, Aliyev called Erdogan earlier this week and made several suggestions about ways to improve diplomatic ties with Israel.
Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov also reportedly called his Israeli counterpart Gabi Ashkenazi last week to bring up the same issue and noted that Baku would be interested in improving ties between both of its allies.
Relations between Turkey and Israel drastically declined in 2010 following an Israeli naval raid on a Turkish aid ship, the Mavi Marmara, en route to deliver humanitarian aid to the blockaded Gaza Strip. The raid killed 10 activists.
The event caused an unprecedented crisis in the decades-long peaceful Turkish-Israeli relations. Both countries recalled their diplomatic envoys following the massacre.
In 2013, with Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu’s apology to Turkey and the payment of $20 million in compensation to the Mavi Marmara victims, Turkish-Israeli relations entered a period of normalisation.
Turkish officials continue to criticize Israel’s policies targeting Palestinians, however, including illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem and the humanitarian situation in Gaza.
Despite Erdogan’s stance on Israel’s policy in Palestine, there have also been reports that Ankara appointed a new ambassador to Israel after a two-year absence.
Earlier this month, a report by Al-Monitor said the move to appoint Ufuk Ulutas, 40, as the new Turkish ambassador is part of an attempt to improve ties with incoming President-elect Joe Biden’s administration.
His appointment came as a number of Arab countries – Bahrain, Morocco, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates – agreed to normalise diplomatic ties with Israel in deals brokered by Trump.