Israel thanks Turkey for help in foiling alleged Iranian plot

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid phoned his Turkish counterpart in Ankara

Turkish police officers patrolling in front of the Blue Mosque in Istanbul on Tuesday.  AFP
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Israel's foreign minister officially thanked Ankara for helping to thwart an alleged Iranian plot targeting Israeli tourists in Istanbul, in a further sign of a revival in ties between the two countries.

Yair Lapid called his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu on Wednesday to thank him for his country’s efforts to protect Israeli tourists, according to the Israeli media.

Israel this week raised its risk warning for travel to Istanbul to four, the highest level, citing the threat of an Iran-led plan to target Israeli visitors to Turkey’s economic and cultural hub.

The security notice issued by Israel's Counter Terrorism Bureau, which is affiliated to the National Security Council, excluded flights with connections in Istanbul as long as Israelis do not leave the airport.

Israel earlier this month reissued a travel warning for Turkey over what the government said were Iranian attempts to attack Israeli targets around the world, but especially in Turkey.

Mr Lapid spoke on Monday about “a series of attempted Iranian terrorist attacks” against Israelis on holiday in Istanbul.

“We call on Israelis not to fly to Istanbul, and unless there is an essential need: do not fly to Turkey at all. If you are already in Istanbul, return to Israel as soon as possible,” Mr Lapid said, in a statement released by the Foreign Ministry.

“In recent weeks, Israeli security services, the ministry of foreign affairs, and the prime minister's office have put tremendous effort into saving Israeli lives, some of whom have returned to Israel and are walking among us without knowing their lives were saved.”

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid at a cabinet meeting at the prime minister's office in Jerusalem on Wednesday.  AP

The warnings come amid the latest surge in tensions between Iran and Israel, with Tehran blaming Israeli security services for a series of attacks on its nuclear and military infrastructure as well as scientists and Revolutionary Guard members.

Iran has not officially commented on the Israeli allegations and its foreign ministry’s Twitter account was highlighting visits by high-level delegations from Pakistan, Nigeria and Turkmenistan.

However, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian held a phone conversation on Tuesday with Mr Cavusoglu to “discuss the latest developments in bilateral relations”, according to the ministry’s website.

“In the phone talks, the Iranian foreign minister stressed the need to keep up the consultations between the two countries and promote co-operation, especially in bilateral trade and consular issues,” the statement said.

Turkey responded to the Israeli security warnings by assuring the world that it is a safe country.

“These travel warnings are considered to be related to different international developments and motives”, its foreign ministry said.

Israeli President Isaac Herzog, left, stands next to his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan after a press conference in Ankara in March.  AFP

Israel and Turkey's long-running co-operation has been under strain over the past decade. Diplomatic ties hit an all-time low in 2010 when Israeli commandos killed nine Turkish activists aboard a Turkish-owned ship in international waters.

The Mavi Marmara was part of a flotilla attempting to break a blockade on the Gaza Strip. Israel said its special forces were attacked first by the activists, contrary to Turkey's account of the incident.

In 2016, Israel and Turkey officially announced the end of their six-year diplomatic rift. Both countries have maintained strong co-operation for many years, especially in the fields of science, technology, trade and agriculture.

Turkey became the first Muslim-majority country to recognise Israel in 1949.

In May, Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan welcomed his Israeli counterpart Isaac Herzog in Ankara, calling it a “historic visit that will be a turning point in relations”.

Updated: June 16, 2022, 10:44 AM
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