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Turkish FM has phone call with Israeli counterpart for first time in 13 years

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Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has had a phone call with his Israeli counterpart, Yair Lapid, for the first time in 13 years, amid an apparent thaw in relations between Jerusalem and Ankara, the state-run Anadolu agency reported on Friday.

While Anadolu said that no details were given on the content of the call, a report by the Times of Israel on Thursday said, citing Lapid’s office, that Çavuşoğlu called to inquire about the foreign minister’s health following his COVID-19 diagnosis.

Lapid tested positive on Jan. 10 and ended his mandatory isolation earlier this week.

The phone call comes days after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said he was open to mending Turkey’s frayed ties with Israel, also announcing that his Israeli counterpart, Isaac Herzog, may soon visit Turkey, although no date has been set.

Turkey’s relations with Israel entered a deep freeze after the death of 10 civilians in an Israeli raid on a Turkish flotilla, the Mavi Marmara, destined for the blockaded Gaza Strip in 2010. The event caused an unprecedented crisis in Turkish-Israeli relations, resulting in both countries’ recalling their ambassadors.

Turkish-Israeli relations entered a period of normalization in 2013, with then-Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s apology to Turkey and the payment of $20 million (about TL 38 million at the time) in compensation to the Mavi Marmara victims.

In December 2016 both countries reappointed ambassadors as part of the reconciliation deal and reiterated several times the necessity to further improve bilateral relations.

Erdoğan has recently shifted to a more positive tone toward Israel, saying on several occasions that he would like to improve ties after years of acrimony.

The president said while receiving members of the Turkish Jewish Community and the Alliance of Rabbis in Islamic States at the presidential palace in December that Turkish-Israeli relations were “crucial for the stability and security of the region” and that he found the revival of dialogue between the two countries important.

Earlier this month, Erdoğan called Herzog to offer condolences over the death of his mother. His personal call was a step beyond a letter he already sent to the Israeli President.

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