Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that recent steps to normalise Ankara’s ties with Israel will not weaken the country’s support for Palestine in the conflict between the two sides.
Erdogan’s remarks come as he met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday as part of the latter’s official visit to Turkey’s capital city, Ankara.
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Abbas’s three-day visit comes as Turkey and Israel take steps to normalise ties. Last week, Turkey and Israel said they would reappoint ambassadors, four years after they were expelled over the killing of 60 Palestinians by Israeli forces during protests in Gaza against the opening of the United States Embassy in Jerusalem.
Erdogan told a joint news conference that Ankara continues its long-standing solidarity with Palestine in the strongest way.
He said that Turkey, which has recognised the Palestinian state from the moment it was proclaimed, defends the vision of a two-state solution on every platform.
“We have clearly demonstrated our response to the Israeli attacks and civilian casualties,” he said.
Erdogan has been a fervent supporter of the Palestinian cause who has branded Israel a “terrorist state”.
Abbas welcomes Turkish support
Erdogan said that Palestinian authorities, including different political factions, welcome the normalisation of ties between Turkey and Israel and that they want the dialogue to continue.
“On the contrary, our Palestinian brothers also express that these steps will contribute to the solution of the Palestinian issue and the improvement of the situation of the Palestinian people,” Erdogan said.
Abbas did not mention Turkish-Israeli relations in his comments, but thanked Erdogan for his past support.
“I would like to thank you for the close attention and hospitality you have shown us,” Abbas told Erdogan.
“I would like to reiterate my gratitude for the fact that Turkey and the Turkish government are on the side of Palestine.”
The veteran Palestinian leader’s visit is widely seen as an attempt by Turkey to show that it stood by old allies even as it repairs relations with more recent rivals.
Turkey has gradually mended fences across the region as it seeks new deals and investments to help recover from its most profound economic crisis in more than two decades.
The warming with Israel is being accompanied by plans to restore direct flights by Israeli airlines between the two countries, which could bring in more tourists to Turkey’s resorts.
Ankara is also hoping to revive an east Mediterranean natural gas pipeline project that won tentative backing from the US last year.
Separately, in a televised interview with broadcaster Haber Global on Tuesday, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, who visited Israel in May, said an ambassador candidate for Israel will be presented to Erdogan in the “coming days”.
“The steps that we are taking do not mean that Turkey will make concessions,” he said.