JERUSALEM (Reuters) -Israel and Turkey’s top diplomats said on Wednesday their countries were hoping to expand economic ties as they seek an end to more than a decade of strained relations.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu is on the second-day of a two-day trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories, the first such visit by a senior Turkish official in 15 years.
“The goal is to form and expand economic and civil cooperation between our countries,” Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said in a statement alongside Cavusoglu in Jerusalem, “and to leverage our two countries’ comparative advantages regionally and globally, even during the pandemic, and even in times of political tension.”
Lapid and Cavusoglu added that officials would begin working on a new civil aviation agreement.
Turkey and Israel have been working to mend their long-strained ties, with energy emerging as a key area for potential cooperation. The two countries expelled ambassadors in 2018 and have often traded barbs over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“We believe that normalization of our ties will also have a positive impact on the peaceful resolution of the conflict. Turkey is ready to take responsibility to continue the efforts towards dialogue,” Cavusoglu said.
Cavusoglu is due to visit Al-Aqsa Mosque later on Wednesday, Islam’s third holiest site and the scene of repeated clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police during the holy month of Ramadan. He said he had discussed the issue with Lapid.
U.S.-brokered peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians aimed at establishing an independent Palestinian state in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza, collapsed in 2014 and the two sides have not held serious talks since then.
(Reporting by Maayan Lubell in Jerusalem and Ali Kucukgocmen in Ankara; Editing by Toby Chopra and Kim Coghill)