JERUSALEM (AP) – Israel’s prime minister has met Turkey’s president for the first time in 14 years, in the latest sign of strained relations between the two regional powers after a long and bitter dispute. Both governments share strategic interests, including containing Iran.
Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s office said he met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in New York on Tuesday on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, the largest annual gathering of heads of state or government currently underway.
During his meeting with Erdogan, Lapid said he was “congratulated” on the resumption of diplomatic relations between the two countries and the appointment of a new Israeli ambassador to Turkey.
Lapid’s platform, interim prime minister until new elections are held in November, with Erdogan keen to show his diplomatic credentials as an alternative to former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Netanyahu prides himself on being a world-class politician, but relations with Turkey deteriorated during his more than a decade in power.
Erdogan has been willing to deepen relations since Netanyahu’s departure last year. He has been critical of Israel’s policy towards the Palestinians. On the other hand, Israel objects to Turkey’s good relations with the Palestinian Authority Hamas, which controls the territory of the Gaza Strip.
The once close regional allies withdrew their ambassadors in 2010 after Israeli forces attacked a flotilla sailing to the Gaza Strip carrying humanitarian aid for the Palestinians, violating the Israeli alliance. Nine Turkish activists died in the incident.
However, following Israeli President Isaac Herzog’s official visit to Turkey in March and other signs of a thaw, the two countries agreed to exchange ambassadors.
During their meeting in New York, Lapid thanked Erdogan for intelligence cooperation against Iranian attempts to attack Turkey and talked about missing and captured Israelis, according to his office.
They also discussed energy cooperation, the statement said. Erdogan has expressed interest in exploiting Israel’s underwater natural gas fields in the Mediterranean.