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The Israeli President invites Erdogan while receiving the Turkish envoy

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As relations between Israel and Turkey warm, Israeli President Isaac Herzog invited President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to visit his country on Wednesday.

Herzog was speaking while receiving the newly appointed Turkish ambassador, Şakir Özkan Torunlar, who presented his credentials to the president.

Last year, Herzog, whose role was mainly ceremonial, was the first Israeli leader to visit Turkey since 2008, after the two countries began to restore relations and end more than a decade of diplomatic spat.

They agreed to mutually appoint ambassadors in August and after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu won elections in November, he and Erdogan agreed to continue improving relations. “I am sure we will all work to strengthen relations between the two countries,” Herzog said.

Netanyahu’s return to power at the head of a national-religious government in December unnerved the Palestinians and their Western and Arab allies, who feared it could lead to an escalation of tensions in the Middle East. Turkey last week joined a chorus of condemnation of the visit by Israel’s far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir to the sensitive Al-Aqsa mosque compound in East Jerusalem, the third-holiest site in Islam and the holiest of the Jewish religions.

The two countries withdrew their ambassadors in 2010 after Israeli forces stormed a Gaza-bound flotilla carrying humanitarian aid for the Palestinians after it breached the Israeli blockade.

The accident resulted in the deaths of nine Turkish activists. Relations collapsed again in 2018 when Turkey, angered by the US moving its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, recalled its ambassador again, prompting Israel to respond in kind. The two countries did not reappoint their ambassadors for long before Irit Lilian presented Erdogan with her credentials as Israel’s new ambassador in December.

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