Lapid with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu
Lapid with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut CavusogluPhoto: GPO

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu met in Israel on Wednesday and agreed on the resumption of talks that will allow Israeli airlines to fly to Turkey, as well as the resumption of activities of the two countries’ Joint Economic Committee.

"We agreed to resume the activities of the Joint Economic Committee, and start working on a new aviation agreement between our countries. We will not pretend that our relations did not know ups and downs. At the same time we always knew to talk again, to cooperate again," said Lapid.

He added, "Peoples with a long history always know how to close one chapter and open a new chapter. This is what we are doing today. Following the Abraham Accords, an axis of power has been created in the Middle East against terrorism, in the face of attempts to undermine stability."

The Turkish Foreign Minister, whose visit to Israel is the first by a Turkish minister in 15 years, said, "We agreed that despite our differences, it will be beneficial to maintain dialogue between the countries. It will benefit not only Turkey and Israel but also peace in the region."

"The dialogue we established at the level of the heads of state helps to maintain calm. We also agreed on the creation of liaison mechanisms between our foreign ministries. As Minister Lapid said, we intend to restart our relations and resume civil aviation talks. We will be happy to see El Al and other airlines fly to many destinations in Turkey," he added.

"We are determined to further increase the volume of trade and economic cooperation. You mentioned how much Israelis love Turkey and I have indeed heard it from every Israeli I have met here. The numbers speak for themselves - Istanbul and Turkey are ranked first in outgoing tourism from Israel. Israelis also visit my hometown, Antalya. We have many opportunities in the fields of agriculture, tourism and more," continued the Foreign Minister.

Cavusoglu also referenced the Palestinian Arab issue, saying, "Yesterday I met with [PA chairman] Abbas and had a good conversation with him. We believe that a two-state solution is the only solution that will lead to lasting peace in the region."

The government hopes that Cavusoglu’s visit is the first step in the full restoration of diplomatic relations between Israel and Turkey, which were suspended by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. However, this is still no dialogue between the sides about advancing meetings at the highest level - between President Erdogan and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.

Erdogan has in recent months been making efforts to improve the strained relations between his country and Israel. Lapid spoke on the phone with Cavusoglu in January, 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 continued to verbally attack Israel. Several months ago, however, President Isaac Herzog and Erdogan held a lengthy conversation shortly after Herzog took office.

Herzog recently visited Turkey, where he was received with an honor guard by Erdogan. Herzog thus became the first Israeli leader to visit Turkey since 2008.