Dr Mike Evans

Israel’s President Herzog planning official visit to Turkey

President Isaac Herzog is planning an official visit to Turkey next month, as a delegation from the nation visits Israel this week to make preparations.

The trip is controversial and requires delicate preparations, in view of the recent escalation in tension between the two nations due to statements by Turkish President Recep Erdogan considered to be hostile, if not simply antisemitic. Erdogan has openly supported Hamas, the terrorist group that has continued to target Israel, including during the Gaza conflict last May.

Herzog’s visit would be the first since the late former President Shimon Peres traveled to Turkey in 2007. Herzog’s visit is currently scheduled for March 9.

According to media reports, the visiting delegation to Israel this week is scheduled to include the spokesperson and chief adviser to the Turkish president, Ibrahim Kalin, and Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey Sedat Önal. They are to meet with Director-General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Alon Ushpiz, Director-General of the Office of the President of Israel Eyal Shviki and senior officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Office of the President.

The checkered past between the two nations may make the visit difficult, but Turkey’s leaders appear motivated to improve relations. Some suggest the desire to cooperate is largely economic, as Israel has worked with other nations involved in the Abraham Accords on multiple financial deals that have generated positive impact for the nations involved.

While leaders are not expecting an Abraham Accords-type of agreement, the two countries could find ways to move forward on mutually beneficial projects. However, reproachment remains in the early stages between the two nations, with much work ahead.

Erdogan has previously noted a desire to work with Israel on the transport of natural gas to Europe. Turkey’s neighbor Greece has already begun to benefit from a natural gas deal to help its economy. A similar situation could develop with Turkey to help its sluggish economy as well.