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Israel and Turkey pledged to restart negotiations on direct flights by Israeli airlines after landmark talks between their foreign ministers, building on recent steps to overcome years of tensions. 

“We agreed to energize our relations in many areas and reconvene mechanisms, as well as resume talks on civil aviation,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said at a press conference Wednesday. “We will be happy to see your national carriers and other Israeli companies flying to different destinations in Turkey and between different cities in Turkey and Israel.”

Various ministries and government agencies will reestablish contacts, said Cavusoglu, the first Turkish foreign minister to visit Israel in 15 years. Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said the talks had initiated “a new framework for improving our relations.” 

Turkey has sought to reset its ties with Israel and the Arab world, including Saudi Arabia, in recent months as it looks to bolster a floundering economy that threatens to erode support for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ahead of elections next year. The diplomacy is also part of a broader realignment that’s seen regional rivals heal rifts and step back from conflicts since US President Joe Biden took office.

Palestinian Talks

Cavusoglu met Tuesday with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Foreign Minister Riad Malki, reiterating Turkey’s support for “a two-state solution” to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The decades-old struggle for a Palestinian homeland has spilled into Israel’s ties with Erdogan’s government in Ankara.

Relations nosedived after 2010, when a Turkish flotilla bound for the Gaza Strip was raided by Israeli commandos, resulting in the deaths of 10 civilians. Turkey has been critical of Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians while Israel has charged Turkey of supporting Hamas, the Islamic militant group that rules the Gaza Strip. 

Mideast Friends-Turned-Foes Seek to Make Up in Shadow of War 

Turkey expelled the Israeli ambassador to Ankara in 2018 and recalled its own envoys from Israel and the US after Israeli soldiers killed nearly 60 Palestinians protesting the transfer of the American embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv. While Turkey’s envoy returned to Washington about two weeks later, Turkey and Israel have conducted diplomatic contacts at the level of charge d’affaires ever since. 

On Wednesday, Cavusoglu said that “normalization of our ties will also have a positive impact on the peaceful resolution of the conflict.”

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