Israeli, Turkish leaders convene for the first time in ten years

After a decade of tension, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Israeli prime minister Yair Lapid have convened for the first time on Tuesday.

Yair Lapid, is seeking Erdogan’s help on citizens held captive by Palestinian militants Hamas.

The two leaders met on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, a month after the countries declared the restoration of diplomatic ties.

Lapid’s office in a statement said the prime minister “brought up the issue of missing and captive Israelis and the importance of bringing them home,”

Also, the Israeli PM raised concerns about arch-enemy Iran and “thanked President Erdogan for intelligence cooperation,” the statement added.

In 1949, Turkey  became the first Muslim-majority nation to recognize Israel.

However, relations deteriorated under Erdogan’s regime, who deviated from his country’s secularism since he became paramount leader in 2003. He last met an Israeli prime minister in 2008.

In 2010, relations worsened following deaths of 10 civilians after an Israeli attack on the Turkish Mavi Marmara ship, part of a flotilla trying to breach a barricade by carrying aid into the Gaza Strip.

Erdogan has sustained relations with Hamas, the movement that controls the densely populated Gaza Strip. The group is believed to be holding two Israeli civilians.

Erdogan in his address to the UN General Assembly renewed calls for the establishment of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

However, he also said that Turkey was “determined to continue to develop our relations with Israel for the sake of the future, peace and stability of not only the region, but also of Israel, the Palestinian people and ours.”

In recent months, Erdogan has also moved to harmonize with regional rivals including Saudi Arabia, with some analysts believing he is prioritizing efforts to address economic woes at home before elections in 2023.

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