Erdogan says Turkey wants better ties with Israel, negotiations continue

President Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday that Turkey would like to have better ties with Israel and that intelligence-level negotiations continued between the two sides, but criticized Israeli policy towards Palestinians as “unacceptable”.

The two countries have had a sharp disagreement in recent years, despite strong trade ties, expelling ambassadors in 2018. Ankara has repeatedly condemned Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and its treatment of Palestinians.

Speaking to reporters after Friday’s prayers in Istanbul, Erdogan said that Turkey has problems with “high ranking people” in Israel and that ties could have been “very different” had it not been for these issues.

Download the NBC News app for breaking news and politics

“Palestinian politics is our red line. It is impossible for us to accept Israel’s Palestinian policies. Its ruthless actions there are unacceptable,” said Erdogan.

“If there were no problems at the top level, our ties could have been very different,” he added. “We would like to improve our relations”.

Turkey and Israel, former allies, expelled each other’s top diplomats in 2018 over clashes in which dozens of Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces on the border with Gaza. Ankara and Tel Aviv continue to trade with each other.

In August, Israel accused Turkey of giving passports to a dozen Hamas members in Istanbul, describing the measure as “a very hostile measure” that its government would take with Turkish officials.

Hamas seized Gaza from forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in 2007, and the group has fought three wars with Israel since then. Turkey says that Hamas is a legitimate political movement that has been democratically elected.