Israel president planning rare Turkey visit: Official

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Israeli President Isaac Herzog is preparing to visit Turkey, his office said Tuesday, in a rare trip following years of frayed ties between the two countries.

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A presidency statement said that a senior Turkish delegation, including a top aide to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was due in Israel this week “as part of preparations for the planned visit.”

In a television interview last month, Erdogan said he expected Herzog to visit in February, hailing the trip as an opportunity to “open a new chapter in relations between Turkey and Israel.”

Herzog’s office had declined to comment on the prospective visit until Tuesday’s statement, which gave no indication of a possible date.

Turkey’s state-run TRT television, reported the trip would take place on March 9 and 10.

Relations between majority-Muslim Turkey and Israel froze over after the death of 10 civilians in an Israeli raid on a Turkish flotilla carrying aid for the Gaza Strip in 2010.

In recent months, however, the two countries have been working on a rapprochement, with Erdogan, a vocal supporter of the Palestinian cause, holding telephone talks with Herzog and other Israeli leaders.

Some analysts have linked the warming ties to former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ouster from office in June. Relations between Netanyahu and Erdogan had grown bitter during their long tenures.

Erdogan had already said in January he was prepared to work with Israel on reviving an old project to ship eastern Mediterranean gas to European customers via Turkey.

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