Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan met in New York on Tuesday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said “ties between the two countries were improving,” Agence France-Presse reported.
After more than a decade of tensions, relations have improved with recent high-level visits, including that of Israeli President Isaac Herzog to Ankara last year.
In Tuesday’s meeting at Turkish House on the sidelines of the annual UN General Assembly, “the two leaders decided to continue advancing bilateral relations in trade, economic matters and energy,” Netanyahu’s office said, and extended reciprocal invitations for visits “soon.”
They also discussed “regional and international issues, including normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia,” the statement said.
Though Saudi Arabia was not one of the Gulf and Arab countries to normalize ties with Israel as part of the 2020 US-brokered Abraham Accords, speculation has grown of an impending deal.
Riyadh has repeatedly said it would stick to the decades-old Arab League position of not establishing official ties with Israel until conflict with the Palestinians is resolved.
On Tuesday Erdoğan and Netanyahu also discussed “the latest developments regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” according to a statement from the Turkish presidency.
Erdoğan is a fervent supporter of the Palestinian cause and a fierce critic of Israel — but he has also altered regional strategy by initiating an outreach to Israel after years of tensions, including sending congratulations to Netanyahu after his victory in December elections.
Ankara’s relations with Israel froze over an Israeli raid on a Turkish ship carrying aid into the Gaza Strip, a Palestinian territory, which killed 10 civilians in 2010.
A brief reconciliation lasted from 2016 until 2018, when Turkey withdrew its ambassador and expelled Israel’s over the killing of Palestinians during a conflict with Gaza.
Netanyahu meets US President Joe Biden on Wednesday on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly for the first time since being re-elected, in what is expected to be a tense encounter.
Relations between Netanyahu and the Biden administration have been rocky since the Israeli leader made his political comeback at the head of a coalition of hard-right and ultra-Orthodox parties in December.
They are also expected to discuss the potential deal to normalize ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia — both key US allies.