© Reuters. Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan addresses the 78th Session of the U.N. General Assembly in New York City, U.S., September 19, 2023. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
By Humeyra Pamuk
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met in for the first time in person on Tuesday, marking a major milestone as the two countries have been slowly improving their ties.
Once close regional allies, relations between Israel and Turkey were strained for more than a decade, with Ankara having expelled Israel’s ambassador following a 2010 Israeli raid on a ship that led a flotilla carrying aid to Gaza, which killed 10 Turkish citizens.
Diplomatic relations were restored in 2016, but two years later Turkey recalled its diplomats from Israel and expelled Israeli envoys when Israeli forces killed a number of Palestinians who had taken part in protests in the Gaza Strip.
A visit to Turkey by Israeli President Isaac Herzog in March 2022, followed by visits by both foreign ministers, helped warm relations after more than a decade of tensions.
The two leaders discussed political, economic and regional topics as well as the Israeli-Palestinian issue, the Turkish Presidency said in a post on social media platform X about their meeting during the annual high-level United Nations General Assembly.
Erdogan told Netanyahu that the two countries can cooperate on energy, technology, innovation, artificial intelligence as well as cyber security, the presidency said.
Energy has emerged as a main area for potential cooperation.
“In the meeting, opportunities for energy cooperation primarily in areas like exploration, production and trade were discussed,” said Turkey’s Energy Minister Alparslan Bayraktar, who participated.
Turkey also began a charm offensive in 2020 to repair ties with estranged rivals, making overtures to Egypt, the UAE, Israel and Saudi Arabia.