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High level Turkish delegation comes to Israel to prepare Israeli President Herzog’s visit to Ankara

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Herzog is to visit Turkey in March with some reports saying that the visit will take place from March 9-10.

Relations between the two countries have been cold for more than a decade, but recently the countries have been working on reconciling.

According to Efraim Inbar, energy concerns are at the top of the Turkish agenda in its drive for rapprochement with Israel.

A high level official delegation from Turkey will arrive in Israel this week as part of preparations for the planned visit of Israeli  President Isaac Herzog.

The delegation’s visit aims to discuss relations between the two countries.

The Turkish delegation includes the Spokesperson and Chief Advisor to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Ibrahim Kalin, and the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey, Sedat Önal.

During the visit, the two officials will meet with the Director-General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Alon Ushpiz, the Director-General of the Office of the President of Israel, Eyal Shviki, and senior officials from the Foreign Ministry and the Office of the President of Israel.

The visit of the senior delegation is reciprocal to the visit of the Director-General of the Israeli foreign minustry to Turkey last December, during which the dialogue regarding the President’s visit and relations between the two countries began.

Herzog is to visit Turkey in March with some reports saying that the visit will take place from March 9-10.

Turkey originally said that Herzog’s trip would take place in February, but it was postponed. No reason was provided.

Relations between the two countries have been cold for more than a decade, but recently the countries have been working on reconciling.

On Feb. 3, Erdoğan announced that he would host Israeli President Isaac Herzog for an official visit to Turkey in mid-March. Erdoğan also claimed Israel was interested in restoring diplomatic ties, noting that Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett maintains “a positive approach.” Erdoğan’s comments followed other, similar signals to Jerusalem. These included the release of two Israeli tourists detained on suspicion of espionage in November after two weeks in prison. Herzog and Bennett each called Erdoğan separately to thank him.

In addition, in January, Erdoğan called Herzog to offer his condolences on the death of his mother. A week later, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu called his Israeli counterpart Yair Lapid to inquire about his health after the latter had recovered from the coronavirus. This was the first conversation between Turkish and Israeli foreign ministers in almost a decade. Similarly, Israeli universities have been contacted by Turkish universities.

While Turkey maintains robust trade with Israel, Erdoğan has harshly criticized Israel on the Palestinian issue, with remarks bordering on anti-Semitism. Meanwhile, his country continues to host Hamas terrorists, notes Efraim Inbar of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security

According to him, energy concerns are at the top of the Turkish agenda in its drive for rapprochement with Israel. Turkey is mainly dependent on energy imports from Russia and Iran and needs to diversify its energy sources. Therefore, Turkey wants Israel’s gas reservoirs for domestic use and export to Europe, strengthening its energy-hub status.

President Erdoğan last month said a discussion over energy cooperation with Israel would take place in March and that on the table for discussion is a plan to work together to transport natural gas to Europe.

“We can use Israeli natural gas in our country, and beyond using it, we can also engage in a joint effort on its passage to Europe,” said Erdoğan,  reported Reuters.

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