Israel FM Yair Lapid visits Turkey amid Iranian 'threats'
Israel's Foreign Minister Yair Lapid is visiting Turkey on Thursday amid alleged Iranian threats against Israeli citizens in the country, reported Haaretz.
Lapid thanked Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu during the meeting for thwarting an alleged Iranian intelligence plot to assassinate Israeli tourists, according to the Israeli daily.
Authorities apprehended eight people allegedly working for an Iranian intelligence cell during a raid on houses across Istanbul's popular Beyoglu district, local media reported.
Meanwhile, Turkey and Israel will also go on to restore their diplomatic ties to ambassador level, following more than a decade of strained ties. The two countries expelled their envoys in 2018 over Ankara's critical response to Israeli violence in the besieged Gaza strip, where 60 Palestinians were killed during protests against the opening of the US embassy in occupied Jerusalem.
Israel issued a travel warning against its citizens in Turkey one month prior to Lapid's visit, urging nationals to refrain from travelling to Ankara, or to leave immediately amid a "real and imminent" danger from Iranian agents.
The latest escalation follows the assassination of Iranian Revolutionary Guards officer Colonel Hassan Sayyad Khodai last month, which Tehan has blamed Israel for.
The agents detained in Turkey were reportedly instructed to assassinate Israeli tourists in retaliation for the killing.
Meanwhile, Lapid's visit is also taking place amid a political crisis in Israel. The foreign minister could be soon named as caretaker prime minister following the Israeli Knesset’s approval earlier this week of a bill to dissolve.
Israel President Isaac Herzog had already travelled to Turkey in March this year, in the first visit by an Israeli head of state to Ankara in over a decade, while Cavusoglu visited Israel, as well as the occupied Palestinian territories, last month.
Relations between Ankara and Tel Aviv are slowly improving, following years of frayed ties under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s leadership, who has criticised Israel's oppression of Palestinians.
Israel’s killing of nine Turkish activists and one Turkish-American aboard a Gaza-bound flotilla carrying humanitarian aid for Palestinians in 2010 led to a freeze in relations.
Meanwhile, Turkey’s rapprochement with Israel is part of Ankara's move to mend rocky relations in the region, including with Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE following years of tension.
Moreover, Turkey and Israel's restoration of ties are said to be motivated by potential cooperation on energy, with the possibility of reviving a dormant idea of a gas pipeline between the countries.
Despite this, Cavusoglu has stated that Ankara’s policy regarding the occupied Palestinian territories will "not change", and Turkey remains committed to the creation of an independent Palestinian state.