image Photo: Flash90, Reuters

Turkey: won’t prioritize Israel over Palestinians

Despite recent overtures toward repairing ties with Jerusalem, Ankara announced that it will not turn its back on its commitment to the establishment of a future Palestinian state.

By Erin Viner

“Any step we take with Israel regarding our relations, any normalization, will not be at the expense of the Palestinian cause, like some other countries,” Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu declared, referring to the rapprochement between Israel and some Gulf countries that has angered Turkey.

“Our position there is always clear,” he added during an Ankara press conference, underscoring that, “These ties normalizing a bit more may increase Turkey’s role regarding a Two-State solution as well, as a country that will be in touch with both countries, but we will never turn back on our core principles.”

Çavuşoğlu’s comments come ahead of an expected visit by Israeli President Isaac Herzog to Turkey next month.

Both nations expelled their ambassadors in 2018 after a bitter rift. While relations remained tense, Ankara has taken recently taken steps to mend strained ties with several of its regional adversaries, including the Jewish State.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced that his Israeli counterpart Isaac Herzog would visit mid-March, in what would be the first such trip in years, to discuss energy cooperation and other matters. President Herzog has yet to confirm the summit.

Ankara has strongly condemned what it refers to as ‘Israel’s occupation of the West Bank,’ as well as Jerusalem’s ‘policy towards Palestinians,’ and long expressed support of a Two-State solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israel has repeatedly criticized Turkey for its backing of the Islamist Hamas terror organization that seized control of the Gaza Strip.

Erdoğan has held telephone conversations with both Herzog and Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett – the first such calls in years.

There has been a “positive approach” from Israel since the formation of Bennett’s new government, Turkey’s A Haber broadcaster cited Erdoğan’s Advisor Ibrahim Kalin as saying on Monday.

A senior Israeli official speaking on condition of anonymity told Reuters that Jerusalem is “progressing with a good deal of care when it comes to Turkey,” while adding that regional tensions should not prevent the two countries from collaborating.

In response to blistering condemnation from the Palestinians, Gulf Arab states that have established ties with Israel have sought to reassure the Palestinians that their quest for statehood will not be abandoned.