Israel-Saudi normalization: Turkey backs the move, Erdogan says

Ragip Soylu 

Middle East Eye  /  September 19, 2023

Turkish president supports normalizing ties because Ankara is in favour of decreasing tensions in the region, a source tells Middle East Eye.

Turkey supports the recent attempts to normalize ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia, Recep Tayyip Erdogan said during a closed-door briefing with analysts and journalists in New York on Monday, sources told MEE

“Turkey views the normalization attempts between the two countries positively,” the Turkish president said, responding to a question, according to two sources who were present at the meeting. 

For months, Washington has been leading efforts to strike a deal between Saudi Arabia and Israel that would establish formal ties.

Saudi Arabia has held out the offer to normalize ties with Israel since 2002 under the Arab Peace Plan, which calls for an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

A Turkish source familiar with Ankara’s thinking told MEE that Turkey is in favour of decreasing tensions in the region.

“Turkey’s current support to normalization is just a continuation and reflection of this general policy,” the source said. “The normalization could become a political leverage to push Israel to act smarter in the region.”

In exchange for normalizing ties, Saudi Arabia wants security guarantees from the United States, help in developing a civilian nuclear program, and fewer restrictions on US arms sales.

While the Palestinian issue is not thought to be central to the agreement, a component of the deal would include possible benefits to the Palestinians.

The Turkish source said the deal may become a positive influence over the Israeli leadership to pressure them on the Palestinian question.

“This could put Turkey at ease in its relationship with Israel, since it is likely to create less tensions with the Palestinians,” the source said. “Because Ankara feels compelled to respond to Israel whenever it acts against the Palestinians.” 

A Saudi media report over the weekend claimed that Riyadh was “pausing talks” with Israel because of distaste over the far-right government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The US State Department offered a quick and firm denial of the report on Sunday, saying on X, formerly Twitter: “Talks are ongoing, and we look forward to further conversations with both parties.”

Ragip Soylu is Middle East Eye’s Turkey Bureau Chief, based in Ankara