'Israel needs to halt unlawful practices to fix ties with Turkey'

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu insisted that Israel needs to stop imposing unlawful practices against Palestinians if the country wishes to have stable relations with Turkey.

“Israel needs to renounce its unlawful policies if it wants to have healthy relations with Turkey,” Çavuşoğlu told a news conference with his Togolese counterpart Robert Dussey in the capital, Ankara, Wednesday.

He said that the Tel Aviv administration needs to stop attacks against Palestinians and refrain from taking steps that damage the possibility of a two-state solution.

“(Tel Aviv) needs to return to the peace process,” Çavuşoğlu said, adding that Israel’s violence and aggression against Palestinians will only further deteriorate relations.

On Wednesday, the Turkish Foreign Ministry strongly criticized Israel’s plans to build new settler units in the Beit El settlement near the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Last month, Turkey withdrew an invitation extended to Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz for the Antalya Diplomacy Forum following recent Israeli violence on Palestinians in occupied territories.

Relations between Turkey and Israel hit their nadir in 2010 following an Israeli naval raid on a Turkish aid ship, the Mavi Marmara, en route to deliver humanitarian aid to the blockaded Gaza Strip. The raid killed 10 activists.

The event caused an unprecedented crisis in the decadeslong peaceful Turkish-Israeli relations. Both countries even recalled their diplomatic envoys following the massacre.

In 2013, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s apology to Turkey and the payment of $20 million (about TL 38 million at the time) in compensation to the Mavi Marmara victims, Turkish-Israeli relations entered a period of normalization.

Turkish officials, however, continue to criticize Israel’s policies targeting Palestinians, including illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem and the humanitarian situation in Gaza.

Known for its unbreakable solidarity with the Palestinians, Turkey has been voicing support for the Palestinian cause on the international stage for decades. Turkish authorities emphasize that the only way to achieve lasting peace and stability in the Middle East is through a fair and comprehensive solution to the Palestinian issue within the framework of international law and United Nations resolutions.

‘Turkey’s cooperation necessary for stability’

Meanwhile, Togo’s Dussey said cooperation with Turkey was necessary to ensure stability and peace in the Sahel region.

Hailing Turkey’s active diplomatic policies, Dussey said countries dealing with terrorism in the Sahel region should work with Turkey and benefit from the country’s expertise in the field and its vast network of embassies throughout Africa.

“We can work together against terrorism and I hope we can achieve this through dialogue,” Dussey said.

The Togolese top diplomat also said his country plans to open an embassy in Ankara, as he thanked President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Çavuşoğlu for keeping their promise last year to boost ties.

Reminding that his country has closed Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ)-linked schools and transferred their administration to the Turkish Maarif Foundation upon Ankara’s request, Dussey said he believes students in these schools will receive a better education.

FETÖ and its U.S.-based leader Fetullah Gülen orchestrated the defeated coup in Turkey, which killed 251 people and injured nearly 2,200.

Çavuşoğlu visited Togo in 2020 and had said Turkey appreciated Togo’s steps against FETÖ-linked schools in the country.

The Maarif Foundation, which was founded on June 17, 2016, officially started its activities a few months after the brutal coup attempt by FETÖ. One of Maarif’s missions is to take over the schools formerly operated by FETÖ, which is known for its international network of institutions.