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Israeli, Turkish top leaders meet face to face for first time since 2008

Prime Minister Yair Lapid meets with Turkish President Erdoğan in New York

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan meet on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, Sept. 20, 2022. (Photo: Avi Ohayon/GPO)

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan met at the Turkish Consulate in New York on Tuesday marking the first time leaders of the two nations had a face-to-face meeting since 2008.

This follows the two nations’ recent decision to restore full diplomatic ties. Both leaders are in New York for the United Nations General Assembly.

Although the meeting was closed to the media, photos documented the two leaders with Turkish and Israeli flags in the background. Turkey’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, characterized the meeting as “good and sincere,” Ynet reported. When asked by reporters if the Turkish president might consider a visit to Israel after the November elections, he replied: “Why not?

Erdoğan previously told a group of Jewish rabbis in New York that he is planning to visit Israel, likely in December. 

It was the first such meeting between an Israeli premier and the Turkish president since 2008 when relations began to deteriorate following an Israeli military operation in Gaza. In 2010, the two countries completely severed ties after the Mavi Marmara incident, when a flotilla tried to break the Israeli blockade on Gaza and a violent altercation erupted, resulting in 10 Turkish casualties. 

However, the fraught relationship gradually thawed in recent years until just a few weeks ago when Israel and Turkey announced the restoration of full diplomatic ties. They also agreed to reinstate their ambassadors, in what is considered a peak in the reconciliation process.

Last month, Erdoğan insisted that the warming ties with Israel does not mean that Turkey has abandoned its support and commitment to the Palestinians. On the contrary, he said, it will “allow us to help our Palestinian brothers.”

In his speech at the U.N. on Tuesday, the Turkish president emphasized his support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and called for an end to “illegal settlements in the occupied territories.” 

“We are going to contribute our effort for that to be possible,” he added. 

Tal Heinrich is a senior correspondent for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS. She is currently based in New York City. Tal also provides reports and analysis for Israeli Hebrew media Channel 14 News.

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