Turkey sending senior officials to Israel ahead of Herzog visit

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Israeli President Isaac Herzog stands to speak during Israel's National Day ceremony at Expo 2020 Dubai, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, January 31, 2022. REUTERS/Christopher Pike

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ANKARA/JERUSALEM, Feb 15 (Reuters) - A team of senior officials from Turkey will travel to Israel ahead of President Isaac Herzog's planned trip to Ankara, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday, as the regional rivals work to repair ties after years of animosity.

President Tayyip Erdogan's chief foreign policy adviser Ibrahim Kalin and Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Onal, will lead a delegation on Feb. 16-17, the foreign ministry said, adding the officials would also meet Palestinian authorities.

Israel and Turkey expelled ambassadors in 2018 and relations have remained tense, but Ankara has since worked to mend strained ties with several regional countries in a charm offensive launched in 2020.

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Ankara, which supports a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, has condemned Israel's occupation of the West Bank and policy towards Palestinians. Israel has called on Turkey to drop support for the militant Palestinian group Hamas, which runs Gaza.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has said Ankara would not turn back on support for Palestinians for the rapprochement. read more

Israel's presidency and foreign ministry said Kalin and Onal would visit to coordinate Herzog's planned visit and hold talks with officials following discussions in Turkey in December.

The delegation was also expected to meet Palestinian officials including President Mahmoud Abbas, the foreign ministry said.

Herzog will visit Turkey from March 9-10, Turkish media said on Tuesday. read more

The two countries are also at odds over policies in the east Mediterranean, namely over energy resources in the region. While often engaging in insults and accusations, trade and commercial ties between Turkey and Israel have remained intact.

Erdogan has said energy cooperation could be discussed during Herzog's visit. read more

Erdogan has spoken to Herzog before amid tensions, although the Israeli presidency is a largely ceremonial role. In November, he spoke to Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, the first such call in years.

As part of its charm offensive, Ankara has also made overtures to estranged rivals Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. While cooperation has picked up with the UAE, the Egypt and Saudi Arabia efforts have so far yielded little public improvement. read more

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Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu in Ankara and Maayan Lubell in Jerusalem Editing by Daren Butler and Frank Jack Daniel

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