Turkey foiled Iranian plot to kill Israelis in Istanbul: FM

Turkish authorities detained five Iranians suspected of planning attacks on Israelis, says Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid.

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid thanked Turkey on Thursday for helping foil an Iranian plot to harm Israelis in Istanbul and said the effort was still under way.

Turkish authorities detained five Iranians suspected of planning attacks on Israelis ahead of Lapid’s visit, Turkish media reports said earlier in the day.

“The lives of Israeli citizens have been saved in recent weeks thanks to security and diplomatic cooperation between Israel and Turkey,” Lapid said during a visit to Turkey. “These efforts are ongoing.”

Lapid arrived in Turkey on Thursday for talks with Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu as the two countries press ahead with efforts to repair ties strained over Turkey’s strong support for the Palestinians.

Hurriyet newspaper reported Turkish authorities detained five Iranian nationals on Wednesday suspected of involvement in an alleged plot to assassinate Israeli citizens in Istanbul.

Police seized two pistols and two silencers in searches conducted in houses and hotels where the suspects were staying, according to the report.

No immediate response from Iran was available.

Latest rapprochement

Turkey, beset by economic troubles, has been trying to end its international isolation by normalising ties with several countries in the Middle East, including Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

Turkey and Israel were once close allies, but relations grew tense under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is a vocal critic of Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians. Turkey’s embrace of Hamas, the movement that governs the besieged Gaza Strip, has angered Israel.

The countries withdrew their ambassadors in 2010 after Israeli forces stormed a humanitarian flotilla bound for Gaza, which has been under an Israeli-Egyptian blockade since Hamas came to power there in 2007.

Nine Turkish activists were killed. Israel apologised to Turkey for the deaths under a US-brokered agreement, but reconciliation efforts stalled.

Turkey recalled its ambassador in 2018 after the United States recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, prompting Israel to respond in kind. The two countries have not reappointed their ambassadors.

The latest rapprochement has been led by Israel’s mostly ceremonial president, Isaac Herzog, who has held several telephone calls with Erdogan and visited Turkey in March, becoming the first Israeli leader to do so in 14 years.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu visited Israel last month. It was first official visit to Israel by a Turkish official in 15 years.

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