Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Vladimir Smirnov, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File) (Vladimir Smirnov, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File)
Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Runaway inflation and complicated relations with Russia may have forced a Turkish thaw.

By Pesach Benson, United With Israel

Israeli officials confirmed on Tuesday that President Isaac Herzog will visit Turkey. Turkish media reports said that the visit is scheduled for March 9.-10

In the coming days, Turkish Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Onal and Ibrahim Kalin, a top advisor to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, will visit Israel to prepare for the visit and discuss ties between the two countries, according to a statement issued by Herzog’s office.

The thaw in Israeli-Turkish ties comes as Erdogan grapples with runaway inflation and the collateral damage from U.S. sanctions that are expected to be hit on Russia if war breaks out in Ukraine.

Turkey’s economy has been decimated by inflation which is running at 48.69 percent according to official figures. But independent experts say the true inflation may be as high as 115%. With inflation eroding the value of paychecks, blue collar workers in many companies are striking for higher wages. Widespread financial hardship has battered Erdogan’s public approval.

Possible sanctions against Russian gas sales to Europe will hit Turkey hard. The Turkstream pipeline became operational in 2020 and has delivered 34.8 billion cubic meters of gas under the Black Sea to a receiving station near Turkey’s border with Bulgaria. The pipeline is operated by Gazprom, Russia’s state-owned energy corporation.

Should war break out in Ukraine, Gazprom would almost certainly be sanctioned by the U.S.

Ankara-Moscow ties are complicated. On one hand, Turkey supports Ukraine’s membership in NATO. On the other hand, Erdogan lost NATO’s goodwill by moving forward with the purchase of a Russian-made S-400 missile defense system.

Teaming up with Israel to sell gas to Europe would make Erdogan less reliant on Russia for gas imports. It would also drive a wedge between Israel and its energy partners, Cyprus and Greece, which are both rivals of Turkey. Israeli officials have been cautious, stressing that they won’t expand ties with Turkey at the expense of their Mediterranean allies.

Israeli-Turkish relations soured in 2010 during the Mavi Marmara affair and snapped in 2018 when Turkey expelled Israel’s ambassador over Gaza border riots.

Since then, Erdogan has allowed Hamas operatives to plan terror attacks in Judea and Samaria from the safety of Turkish soil. Turkey also undermines Israeli sovereignty in eastern Jerusalem through its funding of Islamic institutions in the capital.

Herzog’s trip will be the first high level visit since then-President Shimon Peres visited Turkey in 2007.

Associated Press contributed to this article.