Turkey and Israel will soon begin taking joint steps in energy drilling, President Tayyip Erdogan was cited by Turkish media as saying on Thursday, adding the two countries would also operate energy networks to Europe through Turkey.
Erdogan and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met in person for the first time on Tuesday at the United Nations, in a milestone as two countries have been working to repair relations long strained by disputes over policies toward the Palestinians.
Speaking to reporters after the U.N. General Assembly in New York, Erdogan said he and Netanyahu had agreed on mutual visits in the coming period, and that energy cooperation would ramp up after these.
"God willing, we will take this step without much delay and we will start energy drilling operations with Israel. We will also start operating energy transfer networks to Europe through Turkey, not just to Turkey," he was cited as saying.
"At the moment, our total trade volume is $9.5 billion. We agreed to raise this $9.5 billion trade volume to a minimum of $15 billion in the first phase," he said.
Erdogan added that he and Netanyahu had discussed forming a mechanism between their countries, including some ministries, to increase cooperation in energy, tourism, and technology.
Ties between the former allies unraveled after Israel's forces killed 10 Turks in a 2010 raid on a pro-Palestinian activist ship that tried to breach its blockade on the Gaza Strip, which is ruled by Hamas Islamists proscribed in the West.
Ankara expelled Israel's ambassador, a move reversed in 2016 but repeated two years later over the killing of dozens of Palestinians who took part in violent protests at the Gaza border. Israel, which had complained at Ankara's hosting of Hamas leaders, reciprocally expelled Turkey's envoy in 2018.
A visit to Turkey by Israeli President Isaac Herzog in March 2022, followed by visits by both foreign ministers, helped the thaw, but a planned visit by Netanyahu in July was postponed due to the Israeli premier's health issues.
In 2020, Turkey began a charm offensive to repair ties with estranged rivals, making overtures to Egypt, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia, as well as Israel.
(Reuters - Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu and Ece Toksabay; editing by Timothy Gardner)