On Wednesday Katsav will chair a meeting in Istanbul of Turkish and Israeli businessmen aimed at beefing up economic cooperation between the two countries.

Katsav is scheduled to meet with Turkish counterpart Ahmet Necdet Sezer, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and parliament speaker Bulent Arinc.

Israeli officials have made a point to emphasize that Katsav’s visit demonstrated that Israel’s relations with predominantly Muslim Turkey have not changed since the Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power.

The AKP, whose Islamist roots had Israel concerned when it came to power last November, was quick to reassure it regional ally it would not downgrade relations.

AKP spokesman H. Murat Mercan had said that “Turkish foreign relations have nothing to do with religious background, they are based on realpolitik”.

In the past Israel and Turkey have had joint military exercises and have sought to strengthen military cooperation.