Lapid to visit Turkey amid threats of looming Iranian attack

The visit comes as Israeli tourists in Istanbul are under an immediate threat of a terrorist attack by Iranian agents.

By Aryeh Savir, TPS

Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs Yair Lapid will depart for a diplomatic visit to Turkey on Thursday and will meet with his Turkish counterpart Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, the latest phase in the warming ties between Jerusalem and Ankara.

The visit comes as Israeli tourists in Istanbul are under an immediate threat of a terrorist attack by Iranian agents, and Israel has called on all Israelis to leave the country immediately.

Israeli President Isaac Herzog spoke on Sunday evening with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and thanked him for the efforts to thwart terrorist activities on Turkish soil.

In their conversation, the two leaders “highlighted the great contribution of this cooperation to the trust being built between the governments and nations,” and “agreed to continue working for peace and stability in the region by means of open and ongoing dialogue,” Herzog’s office stated.

The MIT, Turkish intelligence led by Hakan Fidan, is making a supreme effort, as ordered by Erdoğan, to locate the Iranian terrorist cells in Turkey.

Çavuşoğlu was in Jerusalem in May for a diplomatic visit, the first such high-level visit by a Turkish official in Israel in 15 years. The focus of his visit was the normalization of the bilateral ties between the two countries, the return of the two countries’ ambassadors, and the potential for expanding collaboration, after years of cooled and sour relations.

Çavuşoğlu’s visit follows Herzog’s visit to Turkey in March, the first Israeli leader to visit Turkey since 2008. When Herzog entered office, Erdoğan called him to congratulate him on his election, in a conversation that led to a resumption of dialogue between Israel and Turkey after a disconnect lasting several years.

Relations between Israel and Turkey have been sour for years as Erdoğan and his Islamist ruling party have drawn the country toward the Muslim Brotherhood and have espoused Islamic anti-Israel ideas and even antisemitic notions.

Turkey has also become home to Hamas’ headquarters, generating further tensions between Jerusalem and Ankara. Turkey is facing a complex financial situation in the country, as well as tense relations with the U.S. and Europe. Erdoğan may attempt to improve his situation through the resolution of this crisis with Israel.

While Israel is emphasizing the need to expel Hamas’ headquarters from Turkey, Ankara is underscoring its desire to integrate into the Israeli gas project. Energy Minister Fatih Dönmez arrived with Çavuşoğlu in Israel. Erdoğan has said he was prepared to work with Israel on reviving an old project to ship gas to Europe through Turkey.

After Israel signed an agreement with the European Union last week to export natural gas to Europe, Turkey is sure to be interested in joining it.