Israeli President Isaac Herzog will pay an official visit to Turkey in February, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has announced.
Daily Sabah reports that Erdogan has hailed the trip as an opportunity to mend frayed relations between the regional powers.
“This visit could open a new chapter in relations between Turkey and Israel,” Erdoğan said in an interview with Turkey’s NTV channel, adding that he was “ready to take steps in Israel’s direction in all areas, including natural gas.”
Ties between 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.
In recent months, however, the two countries have been working on a rapprochement, with Erdoğan, a vocal supporter of the Palestinian cause, holding telephone talks with Herzog and other Israeli leaders.
Erdoğan said last week he was prepared to work with Israel on reviving an old project to ship Mediterranean gas to European clients via Turkey.
Despite the recent rapprochement, Turkish media reports that Turkish officials continue to criticise Israel’s policies targeting Palestinians, including the illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem and the humanitarian situation in Gaza.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Herzog declined to comment on Erdogan’s announcement, but officials have confirmed talks on a visit.
“If a leader of an important Muslim country like Turkey reaches out to Israel, there is no option other than giving a positive answer,” a senior Israeli official told Axios on Wednesday.
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid spoke on Thursday by phone with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu, who called to inquire about the foreign minister’s health following his COVID-19 diagnosis.
The phone call was the first between Israeli and Turkish foreign ministers to be publicly announced in 13 years.
Turkey is seeking to mend ties with its regional neighbours, including Egypt and the Gulf states, amid an economic crisis at home.