In the West Bank, Turkish FM has promised to support the Palestinians

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JERUSALEM – Turkey’s foreign minister said on Tuesday that improved relations with Israel would not come at the cost of supporting the Palestinians and pledging a two-state solution to the conflict.

Mevlুতt Cavusoglu was speaking at a joint news conference with his Palestinian counterpart Riyad Maliki at the Palestinian administrative headquarters in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank.

Cavusoglu’s meeting with Palestinian officials comes a day before his historic visit to Israel. This is the first visit by a senior Turkish official to the region in 15 years.

“We are leading the normalization process in coordination with the Palestinian Authority,” Cavusoglu said. “Our support for the Palestinian cause is completely independent in our relations with Israel.”

Cavusoglu says the dialogue with Israel will “contribute significantly to the reduction of tensions, as happened during Ramadan, and … to the Palestinian cause or to the strengthening of the Palestinian voice.”

The foreign minister’s visit to Israel is another sign of the two former allies’ efforts to improve long-standing strained relations. Earlier this year, Israeli President Isaac Harzog met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara, the first official visit by an Israeli leader in 14 years.

Turkey and Israel were once close allies, but relations have been strained under Erdogan, who has been a vocal critic of Israel’s policy toward the Palestinians. Israel is also angry that Erdogan has embraced the militant group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip. Israel considers Hamas a terrorist group.

Countries withdrew their ambassadors in 2010 after Israeli forces attacked a Gaza-bound flotilla carrying humanitarian aid to the Palestinians, breaking the Israeli blockade. Nine Turkish workers were killed in the incident.

Relations broke down again in 2018 when Turkey, angered by the relocation of its US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, once again withdrew its ambassador, urging Israel to respond kindly. The two countries have not reappointed their ambassadors.

On Wednesday, Cavusoglu will meet with Israeli Foreign Minister Yar Lapid, visit Israel’s main Holocaust memorial, and pay a private visit to Jerusalem’s Flashpoint holy site, known to Muslims as the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound and to Jews as the Temple Mount.

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