Turkish FM Commits to Support for Palestine in West Bank

Turkey’s foreign minister said on Tuesday that improving relations with Israel would support the Palestinians and would not sacrifice the two countries’ resolution to the conflict.

Mevlut Cavusoglu spoke at the Palestinian Administrative Headquarters in Ramallah on the occupied West Bank during a joint press conference with Palestinian Authority President Riad Malki.

Cavusoglu’s meeting with a Palestinian official took place the day before his visit to Israel. It is the first visit by a high-ranking Turkish official to the region in 15 years.

“We are working with the Palestinian authorities to lead the normalization process,” said Cavusoglu. “Our support for the Palestinian cause is completely independent of our relationship with Israel.”

Cavusoglu said the dialogue with Israel “will make an important contribution to easing tensions, as it did during Ramadan … and will also contribute to a stronger Palestinian cause and/or a stronger Palestinian voice”.

The foreign minister’s visit to Israel is another sign of the two former allies’ efforts to ameliorate long-standing tensions. Earlier this year, Israeli President Isaac Herzog made an official visit to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara for the first time in 14 years.

Turkey and Israel were once close allies, but relations deteriorated under Erdogan, an outspoken critic of Israel’s policy toward Palestine. Israel was also outraged at Erdogan’s embrace of Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza. Israel considers Hamas a terrorist organization.

In 2010, Israeli forces broke Israeli blockades and withdrew their ambassadors after raiding a flotilla carrying humanitarian aid for Palestinians into the Gaza Strip. Nine Turkish activists were killed in the incident.

Relations broke down again in 2018 when Turkey, outraged by the US moving the Israeli embassy to Jerusalem, summoned the ambassador once again. The two countries did not re-appoint their ambassadors.

On Wednesday, Cavusoglu will meet Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, visit Israel’s main Holocaust memorial and private visit to Jerusalem’s Flashpoint Holy Site, known to Muslims as the Al-Aqsa Mosque and to Jews as Temple Mount.

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