President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke by phone Thursday with Israeli counterpart Isaac Herzog, urging continued dialogue, in a rare exchange between the two countries, the presidency said.
The phone call came a few hours after an Israeli couple held in Turkey for a week on suspicion of espionage were released.
Relations between Turkey and Israel have been strained, especially since ambassadors were withdrawn in 2018 after the deaths of Palestinian protesters in Gaza.
Mordi and Natali Oknin were detained last week for allegedly taking a photograph of Erdogan’s residence from Istanbul’s tallest building.
Erdogan told Herzog during the phone call that the continuation of contact and dialogue between Turkey and Israel was in their “mutual interest”, according to the Turkish presidency.
Erdogan also said Turkish-Israeli relations were important for security and stability in the Middle East.
He told his Israeli counterpart: “Disagreements could be reduced to a minimum if both sides acted in mutual understanding in terms of bilateral and regional issues,” said the presidency.
Turkey’s release of the couple also spurred a phone call to Erdogan from Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett who thanked the president, the premier’s office in Jerusalem said.
The office told AFP it was the first such contact between an Israeli prime minister and Erdogan since 2013.
Natali and Mordi Oknin, freed after 8-days in jail in Turkey on charges of spying on @N12News: "We did not know it was forbidden to take photos [of Erdogan's residence]. Everyone was doing it." She explains like everywhere she went to in Turkey she took photos at tourist sites. pic.twitter.com/JDE7EvR3lC
— Louis Fishman لوي فيشمان לואי פישמן (@Istanbultelaviv) November 18, 2021
“After intensive joint efforts with Turkey, Mordi and Natali Oknin were released,” it said in a statement.
The Oknins flown back to Tel Aviv, where Israeli TV broadcast live footage of their arrival.
An Istanbul court had charged them with “political and military espionage”, Turkish media reports said.
The Oknins denied the charges, while Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid insisted the couple were not employees of any intelligence agency.
Erdogan, a vocal supporter of the Palestinian cause, has regularly accused Israel of “terrorism” against the Palestinians.
AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk