Protests break out in Turkey as Israeli President Herzog visits
Protests broke out in Ankara, Istanbul, and other Turkish cities on Wednesday against a visit by Israeli President Isaac Herzog.
Herzog became the first Israeli leader to visit Turkey for 14 years on, after a long period of tensions between the two countries.
In 2011, Turkey expelled Israel's ambassador and withdrew its own from Tel Aviv after Israel refused to apologise for the killing of nine Turkish activists on board the Mavi Marmara ship which was attempting to deliver aid to the besieged Gaza Strip.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has also been an outspoken critic of Israel's occupation of East Jerusalem and the West Bank and siege of Gaza.
Herzog's visit has been billed as a historic opportunity to repair relations between Turkey and Israel.
The Israeli president took part in a prayer for "Turkey and President Erdogan" at Istanbul's Neve Shalom synagogue.
However, people protested outside the Israeli embassy in Ankara on Wednesday, holding pictures of the activists killed on the Mavi Marmara and chanting slogans against the US and Israel.
One of the protesters read out a statement saying, "We will not forget the tens of thousands of Palestinian martyrs… in the name of the sanctity of Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa Mosque we must fight this visit, which is a step towards normalising relations with Israel."
Herzog Defol (@herzogdefol) kampanyası: "AKP iktidarı, İsrail’in Ortadoğu’da attığı sözde 'normalleşme' özünde emperyalizmin Ortadoğu politikalarının bekçiliği adımlarına büyük bir heves ile katılma gayreti göstermektedir"https://t.co/sFRffjsUS1 pic.twitter.com/E2T9MUkL5R— Gazete Yolculuk (@gazeteyolculuk) March 9, 2022
Turkey recognised Israel in 1949. Before President Erdogan's Islamist-leaning Justice and Development Party (AKP) took power in 2003, the two countries had a relatively warm relationship.
Protesters also took to the streets of Gaziantep and Burdur to protest the Israeli head of state's visit.
After meeting Herzog, Erdogan wrote on Twitter that "the Palestinian issue was one of the most important subjects of our meeting".
"We are committed to reducing tension and preserving the two-state solution," he added.
He also said that Turkey was committed to preserving the religious status and sanctity of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which is frequently the target of attacks by Israeli extremists who want to turn the site into a Jewish temple.
Filistin halkına yönelik insani projeler yürüten TİKA ve Türk Kızılay gibi kuruluşlarımızın faaliyetlerinin devamı hususunda İsrail makamlarının desteğini bekliyoruz.— Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (@RTErdogan) March 9, 2022
Önümüzdeki dönemin bölgesel iş birliği açısından da fırsatları beraberinde getireceğine inanıyoruz.