Erdogan says Turkey needs higher relations with Israel, Reuters continues talks

© Reuters. Turkish President Erdogan speaks to members of his ruling AK party during a meeting in the parliament in Ankara

ANKARA (Reuters) President Tayyip Erdogan said Friday that Turkey would like to have better relations with Israel and that news-level talks between the two sides will continue, but criticized Israeli policy towards Palestinians as “unacceptable”.

Despite strong trade ties, the two countries had a bitter conflict in recent years when they expelled ambassadors in 2018. Ankara has repeatedly condemned the occupation of Israel in the West Bank and the treatment of Palestinians.

Erdogan spoke to reporters after Friday prayers in Istanbul that Turkey had problems with “people at the highest level” in Israel and that relations would have been “very different” had these problems not arisen.

“The Palestine policy is our red line. It is impossible for us to accept Israel’s Palestine policy. Your merciless actions there are unacceptable,” said Erdogan.

“If there hadn’t been any problems at the highest level, our relationships could have been very different,” he added. “We want to take our connections to a better point.”

Turkey and Israel, former allies, displaced each other due to clashes in 2018 when dozen Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces on the border with Gaza. Ankara and Tel Aviv continue to trade with each other.

In August, Israel accused Turkey of giving passports to a dozen Hamas members in Istanbul, describing the move as “a very unfriendly move” its government would take with Turkish officials.

Hamas captured Gaza in 2007 from forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and the group has since waged three wars with Israel. Turkey says Hamas is a legitimate political movement that was democratically elected.

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