Turkey’s top envoy to visit Israel after curbs imposed on Hamas

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu will visit Israel later this month after his government took steps to curb the activities of Palestinian group Hamas.

Alon Bar, the political director of the Israeli Foreign Ministry was in Turkey on Monday to plan the May 26 trip with Turkish officials, the Jerusalem Post reported.

Çavuşoğlu’s trip was envisaged following a visit by Israeli President Isaac Herzog to Turkey in March. But Israeli officials had said there was no rush to normalise ties with Turkey and the process needed to be taken step by step.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is seeking to mend ties with key regional countries such as Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia to help end Turkey’s regional isolation, brought about by political tensions over issues including his support for political Islamist groups during the Arab Spring, Libya and natural gas rights to the Mediterranean.

A main stumbling block in repairing ties has been Erdoğan’s staunch support for Hamas, which Israel, the United States and the European Union recognise as a terrorist organisation. Erdoğan has met with top Hamas officials, has allowed the group to set up offices in Turkey, from where Israeli officials said it planned attacks in Israel, and awarded Turkish passports to senior members.

Turkey has intensified restrictions on the leaders and activists of Hamas, deporting dozens and preventing others from entering the country, The New Arab reported on Monday, citing senior Hamas officials.

Erdoğan’s efforts to normalise ties with Israel and other countries come during economic troubles for Turkey -- the lira lost 44 percent of its value last year -- and ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled to take place by June 2023.

Turkey’s "arbitrary" measures against Hamas show that it is sacrificing its relationship with the group to “revive its internal economy,’’ the officials said, according to The New Arab. "The movement's members are facing increasingly severe restrictions by the Turkish authorities in exchange for allowing some of them to stay in Turkish territory for a certain period,” one source said.

Last week, Erdoğan sent a letter to Herzog extending his best wishes for the well-being and prosperity for the Israeli people on Israel’s Independence Day. “I sincerely believe that the cooperation between our countries will develop in a way that serves our mutual national interests, as well as regional peace and stability,” he said.

Erdoğan also responded relatively moderately when Israeli police took measures in response to Palestinian unrest on the Temple Mount last month, the Jerusalem Post said. In the past, Erdoğan has accused Israel of being a terrorist state for its treatment of the Palestinians and accused it of desecrating the holy site.

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