Improving ties with Israel vital: President Erdoğan
ANKARATurkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has stressed the importance of normalization between Israel and Turkey in a phone conversation with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin.
“The normalization of the relations between Turkey and Israel is of the utmost importance for the whole region,” Erdoğan said Nov. 27. “I know that we can keep working together in the domain of natural gas and that the conversations between our energy ministries will bear fruit,” Erdoğan told Rivlin, according to a written statement issued by the Israeli president’s press office.
The phone conversation was initiated by Israel to thank Turkey for sending firefighting aircraft to Israel to combat a fire that broke out across the country.
Erdoğan said relations between Turkey and Israel were being renewed and that a new Turkish ambassador would soon begin his assignment, the statement read.
Rivlin told Erdoğan that he had met the Turkish firefighter pilots who assisted in Israel. “They do wonderful work and we very much appreciate all they do,” he said. “I want to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your decision to send us help when we needed it in fighting the fires. With their brave hearts and abilities, your pilots assisted us greatly.”
Erdoğan thanked Rivlin for his words and said, “As soon as I found out that the fire was spreading, I requested that we send our helicopters and teams to help, and I hope and pray that the mission will end with the best outcome possible.”
Toward the end of their conversation, Erdoğan asked Rivlin about recent moves to ban the call to prayer in Israel, said the statement. Rivlin said would be “considered with sensitivity, as any matter of freedom of speech and religion should be.”
Israel’s president thanked Erdoğan again for their conversation, and asked that he would do all in his power to assist in the return of the bodies of two soldiers, Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, currently being held in Gaza so that they can receive a proper burial in Israel, according to the statement.
Rivlin stressed that the state of Israel would continue to allow each person freedom of religion, whether they were Muslim, Christian or Jewish. The two presidents ended their conversation expressing their hope of speaking again soon, said the statement.
A strong wind whipped up forest and bush fires across Israel and the West Bank on Nov. 24, causing the worst rash of fires since 2010 when the country suffered the single deadliest wildfire in history.
Israel accepted Turkey’s offer of firefighting aircraft to help combat the blaze.
The assistance from Turkey came amid recent rapprochement between Turkey and Israel. Relations crumbled after Israeli marines stormed an activist ship carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza in May 2010, killing 10 Turkish people on board.
Israel later apologized for the 2010 raid on the Mavi Marmara activist ship, paying out $20 million to the bereaved and injured.