Alon Ushpiz
Alon UshpizIlana Lank

Foreign Ministry Director General Alon Ushpiz secretly visited Turkey last month as part of preparations for President Isaac Herzog's upcoming visit to Turkey, which is expected to take place next month, Ynet reported on Wednesday.

According to the report, Ushpiz met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's senior adviser, Ibrahim Kalin, who officially serves as the president's communications adviser but in fact advises him on political issues and is one of his closest aides.

This is the first visit by such a senior political Israeli official to Turkey in the last six years. In 2016, then-Foreign Ministry Director General Yuval Rotem visited Turkey after a suicide bombing in Istanbul in which three Israeli tourists were killed.

The Foreign Ministry declined to comment on the report.

Erdogan said recently that Herzog would visit Turkey before mid-February and a new page will be opened in the two countries’ strained bilateral relations.

Israel has not yet confirmed a visit by Herzog to Turkey, but Herzog spoke to Erdogan on Sunday and the two discussed the possibility of holding a summit in the near future.

Erdogan has been pushing to improve the strained relations between his country and Israel. Two weeks ago, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid spoke on the phone with Cavusoglu, the first public telephone conversation between an Israeli foreign minister and a Turkish foreign minister in 13 years.

Turkey and Israel signed a comprehensive reconciliation deal in 2016, ending a six-year diplomatic standoff following a violent encounter between Israeli soldiers and Islamist radicals on a ship attempting to break through the security blockade on Gaza.

Even after the deal was signed, Erdogan has continued to verbally attack Israel. Several months ago, however, Herzog and Erdogan held a lengthy conversation shortly after Herzog took office.

The two also spoke following the release of Israeli couple Mordy and Natali Oknin from a Turkish prison.

Erdogan also spoke with Herzog and offered condolences following the passing of Herzog's mother, Aura Herzog, several weeks ago.