Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has held a rare phone conversation with his Israeli counterpart, Isaac Herzog, saying the continuation of dialogue between the two countries is in the common interest.
A statement by Turkey’s Communications Directorate said Erdogan, in Thursday’s discussion, highlighted the significance of the two countries’ relations for the “security and stability of the Middle East” and noted that “differences of opinion can be minimised if acted with mutual understanding in both bilateral and regional issues”.
Erdogan further emphasised the importance of restoring “peace, tolerance, and culture of coexistence in the region”, as well as the enhancing of Palestinian-Israeli relations and the resumption of the peace process.
He also said that maintaining talks and dialogue between Turkey and Israel would be “mutually beneficial”.
A statement by the Israeli presidency said the conversation was conducted in a positive spirit, adding that the two leaders agreed to remain in contact.
The phone call came a few hours after an Israeli couple held in Turkey for a week on suspicion of espionage was released.
Mordi and Natali Oknin were arrested for allegedly taking a photograph of Erdogan’s home in Istanbul, state news agency Anadolu reported. An Istanbul court had charged them with “political and military espionage”, according to Turkish media reports.
An employee tipped off the police after seeing the couple take pictures of the residence from the tower’s restaurant, the agency said. A Turkish national, who was with the couple, was also arrested on charges of political and military espionage.
The Oknins denied the charges, while Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid insisted the couple were not employees of any intelligence agency.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett later spoke with Erdogan – the first conversation between Turkish and Israeli leaders since 2013, according to Bennett’s office – and thanked Erdogan for helping to resolve the affair.
“The prime minister said this is a solution to a humanitarian issue and noted favourably the communication between the countries, which functioned efficiently and discreetly in a time of crisis,” Bennett’s office said.
Erdogan, a vocal supporter of the Palestinian cause, has regularly accused Israel of “terrorism” against the Palestinians.
Relations between Turkey and Israel have been strained, especially since ambassadors were withdrawn in 2018 after the killing of Palestinian protesters in the besieged Gaza Strip by Israeli forces.