Erdogan says Turkey, Israel can work on gas amid push to mend ties: Media

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Ankara was ready for cooperation in the energy sector. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

ANKARA (REUTERS) - Natural gas cooperation is among the most important steps Turkey and Israel can take amid a bid to repair ties and Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett could visit Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was cited as saying on Friday (March 25).

Earlier in March, Mr Erdogan said he believed Israeli President Isaac Herzog's visit to Turkey would be a turning point in long-strained relations between the regional powers, and that Ankara was ready for cooperate in the energy sector.

"In this process, Israeli Prime Minister Bennett may come as well. With his arrival too, there may be a chance to start a new era in Turkey-Israel ties," Mr Erdogan told reporters on a return flight from a Nato summit in Brussels.

"One of the most important steps we can take together for bilateral ties, I believe, would be natural gas," he added, and said details of the cooperation would be discussed later during a visit by his foreign and energy ministers to Israel.

On the situation in Ukraine, Mr Erdogan said his Ukrainian counterpart's comments on the need for a referendum for compromises with Russia was “smart leadership”.

He added that Turkey could not impose sanctions on Russia due to its energy needs and cooperation.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Monday any compromises agreed with Russia to end the war would need to be voted upon in a referendum.

Mr Erdogan said he would hold separate calls with his Ukrainian and Russian counterparts in the coming days to evaluate the summit.

Nato member Turkey shares a maritime border with Ukraine and Russia in the Black Sea, has good ties with both and has offered to mediate the conflict. While supporting Ukraine and being critical of Russia, Ankara has opposed sanctions on Moscow.

“We are buying nearly half of the natural gas we use from Russia. Separately, we are making our Akkuyy Nuclear Power Plant with Russia. We cannot set these aside,” Mr Erdogan said.

“So there is nothing that can be done here. We must maintain our sensitivity on this issue. Firstly, I can’t leave my people in the cold of the winter. Secondly, I cannot halt our industry.

We must defend these,” he added.

He also said Ukrainian and Russian negotiators were able to agree on four out of the six main issues being discussed during peace talks, but that territorial disputes on the eastern region of Donbass and Crimea remained.

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