Turkey, Israel can jointly bring gas to Europe, says Erdoğan

In an apparent easing after years of animosity, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Feb. 4 expressed Turkey's interest to carry natural gas from Israel to Europe.

Duvar English - Reuters

Turkey and Israel can work together to carry natural gas from Israel to Europe and the two countries will discuss energy cooperation during talks next month, Turkish President Recep

The two countries expelled their ambassadors in 2018 after a bitter falling-out. Ties have remained tense since with Ankara condemning Israel's occupation of the West Bank and its policy toward Palestinians, while Israel has called on Turkey to drop support for the militant Palestinian group Hamas which rules Gaza.

However, Turkey has been working to repair its strained ties with regional powers as part of a charm offensive launched in 2020. In an apparent easing after years of animosity, Erdoğan said on Thursday that Israeli President Isaac Herzog would visit Turkey in mid-March.

"We can use Israeli natural gas in our country, and beyond using it, we can also engage in a joint effort on its passage to Europe," Erdoğan told reporters on a return flight from Ukraine.

"Now, God willing, these issues will be on our agenda with Mr Herzog during their visit to Turkey," he was quoted by Turkish TV media as saying. Erdoğan had visited Ukraine to discuss the crisis there.

While Erdoğan has spoken to Herzog amid tensions before, the Israeli presidency is a largely ceremonial role. In November, he spoke to Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, the first such call in years.

Erdoğan on Feb. 2 met Nachirvan Barzani, the president of Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdish region. Asked what was discussed, Erdoğan said Ankara wants to sign a natural gas supply deal with Iraq and is holding talks on this.

"We have now taken the Iraq issue on our agenda. We are now thinking about it. There may be a supply on the natural gas side from Iraq to Turkey," Erdoğan said, adding Barzani had promised to facilitate talks. 

'Biden, West have not helped solve Ukraine crisis'

Erdoğan also touched upon the crisis between Russia and Ukraine, saying that U.S. President Joe Biden and other Western nations had not helped to solve the ongoing conflict, and there were no European leaders fit to resolve it.

Erdoğan met his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskiy in Kyiv on Feb. 3 and repeated an offer for Turkey to mediate the crisis with Moscow, which Kyiv welcomed. He also offered to host a meeting of the Ukrainian and Russian leaders.

Erdoğan reportedly told reporters that he "greatly values" a planned visit by Russian President Vladimir Putin to Turkey. 

Washington said on Feb. 3 that U.S. intelligence agencies believe Russia has formed a plan to use a fabricated video as a pretext for an invasion, amid concerns over Russia's buildup of more than 100,000 troops near Ukrainian borders.

Moscow denies planning an invasion and has demanded guarantees from NATO and the United States that Ukraine will never join the alliance.