Erdogan wants to bring ties with Israel to ‘better point’

The Turkish president says intelligence cooperation continues.
Friday 25/12/2020
Turkish President and leader of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses his party’s group meeting at the Turkish Grand National Assembly in Ankara, on October 28, 2020. (AFP)
Turkish President and leader of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses his party’s group meeting at the Turkish Grand National Assembly in Ankara, on October 28, 2020. (AFP)

ANKARA--President Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday that Turkey would like to have better ties with Israel and that talks at intelligence level continued between the two sides, even if he criticised Israeli policy toward Palestinians as “unacceptable”.

Speaking to reporters after Friday prayers in Istanbul, Erdogan said Turkey had issues with “people at the top level” in Israel and that ties could have been “very different” if it were not for those issues.

The two countries have had a bitter falling out in recent years, despite strong commercial ties, expelling ambassadors in 2018.

But Ankara, which has criticised recent Arab normalisation moves with Israel, has maintained diplomatic relations, security cooperation and strong economic ties with the Jewish state.

He said it is “impossible for us to accept Israel’s Palestine policies. Their merciless acts there are unacceptable”.

“This is the point where we differ from Israel as part of both our approach to justice and countries’ territorial integrity. Otherwise, our heart desires that we could improve our relations with them,” he added.

“If there were no issues at the top level, our ties could have been very different,” he added. “We would like to bring our ties to a better point.”

Turkey and Israel, former allies, expelled each other’s top diplomats in 2018 over clashes between the Palestinians and Israeli forces on the Gaza border. Ankara and Tel Aviv continue to trade with one another.

In August, Israel accused Turkey of giving passports to a dozen Hamas members in Istanbul, describing the move as “a very unfriendly step” which his government would raise with Turkish officials.

Hamas seized Gaza from forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in 2007, and the group has fought three wars with Israel since then. Turkey says Hamas is a legitimate political movement that was elected democratically.