JERUSALEM: Turkey’s diplomatic thaw with the Zionist entity will help the Palestinians, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Wednesday during the first trip to the Zionist entity by Ankara’s top diplomat in 15 years. Cavusoglu, who met Palestinian officials in the occupied West Bank on Tuesday, was in Jerusalem as Turkey and the Zionist entity seek to mend ties which began to fray following a Zionist military operation in the Gaza Strip in 2008.

Ties fully collapsed in 2010 when Zionist forces stormed a Turkish aid ship bound for the blockaded Gaza Strip, in a botched operation that claimed the lives of 10 Turks. Cavusoglu and his Zionist counterpart Yair Lapid stressed economic ties had continued to grow, despite years of acrimony between the two countries. “We won’t pretend that our relationship has not seen its ups and downs,” Lapid said. “Even in times of political tension, economic cooperation between our countries has been constantly on the rise.”

Addressing the Zionist-Palestinian conflict, Cavusoglu voiced hope Turkey and the Zionist entity could “address our disagreements in a more constructive manner”. “Turkey is ready to take responsibility to continue the efforts towards (Zionist-Palestinian) dialogue,” he said. After meeting Lapid, Cavusoglu visited the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Zionist-annexed east Jerusalem, Islam’s third holiest site and the scene of repeated clashes between Palestinians and Zionist police during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

More than 200 people, mostly Palestinians, have been wounded at the site in the past few weeks. One man died this month from injuries suffered as he was caught up in unrest at Al-Aqsa. Cavusoglu’s visit, which passed without incident, saw him pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque and meet with Azzam Al-Khatib, head of Jerusalem’s Waqf Islamic affairs council, which administers the site.

Cavusoglu had earlier said dialogue between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Zionist counterpart Isaac Herzog helped “maintain calm” during Ramadan. Last month, Erdogan called his Zionist counterpart amid clashes at Al-Aqsa. The massive deployment of police as well as increasing presence of Jews at the site have been widely perceived as a “provocation” by Palestinians and several Muslim countries.

Erdogan remains a vocal supporter of the Palestinian cause but analysts say he wants improved relations with the Zionist entity to bolster Turkey’s struggling economy, including through joint gas initiatives. At his meeting with Lapid, Cavusoglu noted Turkey was a top 10 trading partner for the Zionist entity and a major destination for Zionist tourists, voicing hope deepening ties could yield benefits for Palestinians. “We believe that normalization of our ties will have a positive impact on peaceful resolution of the conflict,” he said.

The Zionist entity and Turkey hailed a new era in relations when Herzog met with Erdogan in Ankara in March. Cavusoglu and Lapid on Wednesday agreed to set up a formal process that would allow Zionist carriers to land in Turkey and renewed a bilateral economic commission. The Turkish diplomat had earlier visited Jerusalem’s Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem. During Cavusoglu’s trip to Ramallah on Tuesday, Turkey signed nine new pacts with the embattled Palestinian Authority, ranging from agriculture to education and trade. - AFP