Turkey’s foreign minister says he plans to visit the Temple Mount during his trip to Israel
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu is expected to visit Israel next week and plans to visit the holy site of the Temple Mount, according to a Thursday report.
Cavusoglu’s visit to Israel would be a diplomatic breakthrough for both countries, but his intention to visit the sensitive site in Jerusalem’s Old City has sparked tensions between Ankara and Jerusalem, the Kan public broadcaster reported.
Cavusoglu plans to visit the compound without any Israelis accompanying him, the report said, citing “an official with knowledge of the details.”
His plan also sparked a row involving the Shin Bet’s internal security service over security protocol for his visit, according to the report.
The Temple Mount is the holiest place for Jews as the location of biblical temples, and the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which sits atop the mount, is the third holiest site for Muslims. The complex is administered by the Muslim Waqf and Jews are allowed to visit there at certain times, but not to pray there.
President Isaac Herzog and Cavusoglu first announced the Turkish envoy’s planned trip to Israel in March while Herzog was in Ankara.
Cavusoglu was due to surrender in April, but the date was pushed back because Israel wanted to avoid further inflaming a tense situation in Jerusalem during Ramadan, Kan reported. There have been almost daily fights between police and Palestinians in the capital during the holidays, mostly around the Temple Mount.
Foreign officials sometimes visit the Western Wall, but usually not the Temple Mount, when in Jerusalem. In 2020, an unofficial economic delegation from the United Arab Emirates visited the Temple Mount as the country approved a normalization agreement with Israel. Palestinian officials and passers-by condemned the UAE group for their visit.
Ties between Jerusalem and Ankara have warmed, and Cavusoglu’s visit to Israel would be the first trip to the Jewish state for such a senior Turkish government figure in years.
Kan’s Thursday report said Cavusoglu will discuss the reintegration of ambassadors to each other’s capitals during his visit to Jerusalem, though previous reports said that step was not yet on the table.
Repairing ties between the countries took a small bump last month during clashes in Jerusalem, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressing concern to Herzog over the fighting.
However, Erdogan said shortly after that Turkey’s rapprochement with Jerusalem would continue despite tensions around the Temple Mount. Erdogan said Turkey will continue to protest loudly against Israeli actions at the holy site, but this will not directly affect the countries’ diplomatic relations.
“It is clear that the way to effectively defend the Palestinian cause is to have a reasonable, consistent and balanced relationship with Israel,” he told lawmakers in Turkey’s parliament. The speech marked a dramatic shift from previous years, in which Turkey downgraded ties with Israel in protest at actions in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza.
Cavusoglu said last month that Turkey seeks a “sustainable relationship” with Israel, but those ties depend on Israel’s policy toward the Palestinians.
“We expect Israel to respect international law on the Palestinian issue,” he said.
Cavusoglu spoke with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid in January, marking the first phone call between the nations’ foreign ministries in 13 years.
Herzog’s trip to Ankara in early March was the highest-level visit by an Israeli official since former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert visited Turkey in 2008.
Once strong regional allies, Israel and Turkey have seen their ties crumble during Erdogan’s long tenure, as the Turkish president has been a vocal critic of Israel’s policy towards the Palestinians.
Israel has been upset by Erdogan’s warm relationship with Hamas, the terror group that controls the Gaza Strip.
The countries reciprocally withdrew their ambassadors in 2010, after Israeli forces boarded a flotilla bound for Gaza carrying humanitarian aid for the Palestinians, were attacked and killed 10 Turkish citizens in the melee which followed.
Relations slowly improved, but broke down again in 2018, after Turkey, angered by the US moving its embassy to Jerusalem, once again recalled its envoy from Israel, prompting Israel to reciprocate.
Earlier this month, Erdogan sent a congratulatory letter to Herzog on Israel’s Independence Day and the two held a phone call, marking the third time in several weeks that the two leaders have spoken over the phone. phone.
Erdogan also called on April 1 to condemn a series of Palestinian terror attacks that left 11 people dead.
Clashes and unrest erupted at Al-Aqsa Mosque, and at times in the surrounding area, almost daily during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in April. The fighting has created tension with Israel’s Muslim-majority regional partners.
The Temple Mount is a frequent focus of Israeli-Palestinian tensions, with clashes there last year helping to precipitate the 11-day military conflict between Israel and terror groups in the Gaza Strip after the Hamas leaders from the enclave fired rockets into Jerusalem.
Jerusalem has been on edge since the end of Ramadan. Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was killed in an exchange of fire between Israeli troops and Palestinian gunmen in the West Bank earlier this month, sparking outrage among the Palestinian public. His funeral in the capital became a major incident when police beat the pallbearers.
On Monday, Palestinians and police clashed in East Jerusalem during the funeral procession of a Palestinian man who died after being seriously injured in clashes on the Temple Mount last month.