Turkey pledges support for Palestinians despite improved ties with Jerusalem

“Our support for the Palestinian cause is completely independent of the course of our relations with Israel,” Cavusoglu said.

By Associated Press and World Israel News Staff

Turkey’s foreign minister said Tuesday that improved ties with Israel will not come at the expense of its commitment to supporting the Palestinians and the two-state solution to the conflict.

Mevlut Cavusoglu spoke in the Palestinian administrative headquarters in Ramallah during a joint press conference with his Palestinian counterpart, Riad Malki.

Cavusoglu’s meeting with Palestinian officials comes a day before he makes a landmark visit to Israel. It would be the first visit to the region by a senior Turkish official in 15 years.

“We are leading the normalization process in coordination with Palestinian authorities,” Cavusoglu said. “Our support for the Palestinian cause is completely independent of the course of our relations with Israel.”

Cavusoglu said that dialogue with Israel would “make an important contribution to the reduction of tensions, as it did during Ramadan, and … will also contribute to making the Palestinian cause or the voice of the Palestinians to be heard stronger.”

The foreign minister’s visit to Israel is another sign of efforts by the two former allies to improve long strained relations. Earlier this year, Israeli President Isaac Herzog met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara, the first official visit by an Israeli leader in 14 years.

Turkey and Israel once were close allies but relations grew strained under Erdogan, who has been hostile to Israel until he began reconciliation efforts over the past few months.

Erdogan’s strong ties with Hamas were also a source of conflict between the two countries. Recently, however, Turkey expelled members of the terrorist group, apparently heeding advice from Jerusalem.

“Dozens of people identified with Hamas in various circles have been deported [from Turkey],” a Palestinian official told Israel Hayom at the time.

“Turkey asked them to leave, and it actually happened in the last few months,” he said, noting that “some” of the targets had ties to Hamas’ military wing.

The official blamed Israel for the turnaround, which Jerusalem had been requesting for years. Hamas operatives have long been known to have orchestrated deadly attacks in the Jewish state from their homes in Istanbul.

Ankara and Jerusalem withdrew their respective ambassadors in 2010, after Israeli forces stormed a Gaza-bound flotilla that anti-Israel activists claimed was carrying humanitarian aid for Palestinians that broke an Israeli blockade. It was instead found to be carrying weapons. Eight Turks and one Turkish-American were killed and several other pro-Palestinian activists were wounded by Israeli commandos. Footage of the incident shows the individuals attacking Israeli security forces.

Relations broke down again in 2018 when Turkey, angered by the U.S. moving its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, once more recalled its ambassador, prompting Israel to respond in kind. The two countries have not reappointed their ambassadors.

On Wednesday, Cavusoglu will meet with Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, visit Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and pay a private visit to the Temple Mount.