Israeli-Turkish rapprochement crucial for region, says Erdogan
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, speaking to journalists during his trip back from the Neutrality Conference in Turkmenistan over the weekend, said a diplomatic thaw between Turkey and Israel was for the good of the entire region, repeating Turkey's three preconditions for any thaw. In the past week, certain signs from Israel sparked a new debate about the Israeli desire to re-establish links with Turkey Dailysabah reported.
Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz voiced governmental discussions over possible natural gas exports to Turkey while the appointment of Yossi Cohen, a close ally of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and an expert on the region, as the new chief of Mossad was seen as a signal that the country wants to create an avenue to improve ties with regional countries, especially Turkey.
Erdogan said that out of Turkey's three conditions, which are an apology for the 2010 Mavi Marmara massacre of Turkish activists by Israeli forces, compensation for the victims' families and an end to the blockade of the Gaza Strip, only the first one was fulfilled. Erdogan, during the interview, touched on Iraq, which he criticized for filing a complaint against Turkey at the U.N., and also described Donald Trump as an unsuccessful politician for his Islamophobic remarks.
"I already said that once the compensation and the embargo problems were resolved, normalization process may start. This normalization process would be good for us, Israel, Palestine and the entire region. The region definitely needs this. I don't believe the Israeli public is pleased with the current state of relations. We need to consider the interests of the people of the region and introduce peace," he said.
On his meetings in Turkmenistan, Erdogan said he had the opportunity to meet with Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymuhamedow along with Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili, Iranian First Deputy President İshak Cihangir and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. There were also comprehensive meetings with Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko, Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev and Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic. He said the talks centered on developing trade ties and that most had proposed to mediate the differences between Turkey and Russia.
When asked whether natural gas trade came up during his discussions with the Turkmen president, Erdogan said: "Turkmenistan's main problem concerning natural gas is Russia, which has decreased gas purchases from 40 billion cubic meters a year to 4 billion a year. They are now searching for alternative markets. China currently is the main buyer. They are now readying to build a gas pipeline that will reach India.