Photo Credit: Avi Ohayon / GPO
Prime Minister Yair Lapid and Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the UN General Assembly in New York City on Sept 20, 2022

Prime Minister Yair Lapid met with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday (Sept. 20) during his visit to attend the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New york.

It was the first meeting between an Israeli prime minister and Turkey’s president since the announcement of the restoration of full diplomatic relations and the return of ambassadors and Consuls-General to Israel and Turkey (Türkiye).

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Lapid commended the increase in representation and the appointment Irit Lillian as Israel’s new ambassador to the country.

Lillian is a career diplomat. She was appointed as charge d’affaires in Ankara in February 2021 by former Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi. Prior to that appointment, Lillian served from 2015 to 2019 as Israel’s ambassador to Bulgaria.

He and Erdogan discussed the fight against terrorism in Israel and generally, with Lapid thanking Erdogan for intelligence cooperation during Iran’s attempts to carry out terrorist attacks against Israelis on Turkish soil.

Lapid also raised the issue of missing and captive Israelis, and the importance of bringing them home from Gaza, where two living civilians and the bodies of two fallen IDF soldiers are being held hostage by the enclave’s ruling Iranian-backed Hamas terrorist organization.

The two leaders also discussed economic and energy cooperation between the two countries, among other regional developments.

Erdogan, also in New York for the UN General Assembly, Jewish leaders on Monday at a meeting in the city that he plans on visiting Israel, and said antisemitism is a “crime against humanity.”

The Turkish leader’s meeting with Jewish leaders was set up by the Turkish Embassy and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

Israeli flights to Turkey were restored, a move likely lead to stronger tourism.

Turkey and Israel agreed to restore full diplomatic ties this past August after a four-year hiatus and 10 years of tensions, including the exchange of ambassadors and consuls general.

Israeli President Isaac Herzog visited Turkey this past March, paving the way for renewed ties.

Nevertheless, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters last week in a briefing the decision to restore full diplomatic relations with Israel did not mean Ankara would abandon its support for “the Palestinian cause,” Turkey’s Daily Sabah news outlet reported.

Cavusoglu – the first Turkish foreign minister to visit Israel in 15 years — told reporters, “We are not giving up on the Palestinian case. It is important for our messages to be conveyed directly through the ambassador (on the Palestinian issue).”

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.
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