Turkey ‘safe country’ for travel, Foreign Ministry says


The Foreign Ministry dismissed Israel’s calls urging its citizens to leave the country over fears of Iranian attacks, saying that Turkey is a safe country.

In an indirect response that did not mention Israel, the ministry noted “some countries” had issued travel warnings.

Turkey “is a safe country and continues to fight against terrorism,” the statement said.

“These travel warnings are considered to be related to different international developments and motives,” it added.

Israel’s Foreign Minister Yair Lapid on Monday urged citizens in Turkey to leave “as soon as possible” over threats that Iranian operatives were planning attacks on Israelis in Istanbul.

He said there was “a real and immediate danger” from Iranian agents.

On Monday, Israel’s Yediot Ahronot newspaper quoted an unnamed security official saying several Iranian “cells” were planning operations against Israeli tourists in Turkey.

Tehran has vowed to retaliate against Israel, which it blames for the May 22 killing of Hassan Sayad Khodai, an Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps colonel who was shot dead at the wheel of his car by two people on a motorcycle.

Israel neither confirmed nor denied responsibility, its standard policy on accusations of assassinations. It accused Khodai of having plotted attacks against its citizens worldwide.

Turkey is a popular tourist destination for Israelis. The two countries have been mending their ties after more than a decade of strained relations.

Israel was a long-time regional ally of Turkey before a 2010 commando raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla left 10 Turkish activists dead.

A full-blown crisis erupted in May 2010, when Israeli commandos staged a botched pre-dawn raid on the Mavi Marmara ship, part of a flotilla trying to ferry aid to the Gaza Strip in defiance of a naval blockade. Ankara recalled its ambassador and scaled-down economic and defense ties with Israel.

In March 2013, under pressure from US President Barack Obama, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologized to Turkey and announced compensation for the families of those killed.

Israel and Turkey formalized the normalization process in June 2016 after six years of estrangement.

In December 2017, Erdoğan led Muslim opposition to US President Donald Trump’s plans to transfer the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and to recognize the disputed city as Israel’s capital.

On the day the new embassy was opened in Jerusalem, on May 14, 2018, Erdoğan accused Israel of “state terrorism” and “genocide” after dozens of Palestinians were killed by Israeli rockets.

Both countries recalled their ambassadors. Relations continued to sour, particularly after a controversial law passed by the Israeli parliament in July that defined the country as the nation-state of the Jewish people.

In November 2021, Erdoğan held telephone talks with Israeli President Herzog and Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, the first such discussions between the Turkish leader and an Israeli leader since 2013.

Erdoğan declared that Turkey is considering “gradual” reconciliation with Israel.

In January 2022, I have announced that Turkey is ready to cooperate with Israel on a gas pipeline project in the Eastern Mediterranean.

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