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Israel Satisfied With Intel Cooperation to Foil Iranian Plots in Istanbul, Lapid Tells Turkish FM

avatar by Sharon Wrobel

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. Photo: Boaz Oppenheim

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said Thursday that Turkish intelligence had saved Israeli lives by helping foil an Iranian plot in Istanbul, as his counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu vowed that Ankara would not permit terror attacks against Israelis on the country’s soil.

“In recent weeks, the lives of Israeli citizens have been saved thanks to security and diplomatic cooperation between Israel and Turkey,” Lapid said standing next to Cavusoglu at a joint press conference, following a bilateral meeting in Ankara. “We are full of appreciation for the Turkish government for this professional and coordinated activity.”

Lapid expressed confidence that “Turkey knows how to respond to the Iranians on this matter.”

“We are not only talking about the murder of innocent Israeli tourists, but also a clear violation of Turkish sovereignty by Iranian terror,” Lapid remarked. “No country should tolerate terror on its soil.”

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Speaking ahead of Lapid, Cavusoglu assured that Turkey “will never allow any terror attacks against Israelis to take place in our country,” adding that the “due messages necessary were already given” to Iran.

Lapid — who is slated to take over as Israel’s interim prime minister in the coming days, following the collapse of the country’s coalition government earlier this week — said the country would not “sit idly-by when there are attempts to harm its citizens in Israel and around the world.”

Gallia Lindenstrauss, a senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), told The Algemeiner that the fact that Lapid’s visit went ahead as planned “despite the political upheaval, and with his new role, added another layer of importance to the visit and signaled the satisfaction with the strong Turkish effort to foil the Iranian plans.”

Lapid’s one-day visit to Ankara comes after Israel last week raised the travel warning for Istanbul to Level 4, the highest level, citing unfolding attacks on its citizens by Iran, which has pledged to avenge the May 22 assassination of a Revolutionary Guards colonel in Tehran.

“Our immediate goal is to bring about calm that will enable us to change the travel warning to Turkey,” Lapid said. “The tourist season is reaching its peak and Turkey is the number one destination for Israeli tourists.”

In recent days, Turkish security forces worked with Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency to secure places where Israeli tourists are residing, and have conducted searches for Iranian terrorist cells.

“Iran is behind these attempted terrorist attacks,” Lapid said. “The intelligence leaves no doubt about it.”

Turkish newspaper Hürriyet reported on Thursday that 10 suspects, including Iranians and local collaborators, were arrested in an operation by the national intelligence agency, with the individuals allegedly working for an Iranian intelligence cell planning the kidnappings and assassinations of Israelis living in or visiting Istanbul. Among the reported targets were a former Israeli ambassador and his wife staying at a hotel in Istanbul’s popular Beyoğlu district.

“Today, we received news of attempts to kidnap and attack Israelis, and believe me that Israel’s security forces are operating 24/7 in ‘foiling’ and preventive operations often reminiscent of thriller movies,” Israeli President Isaac Herzog said separately from an Israeli military base, during a speech at the graduation ceremony of the Israeli Air Force’s 184th flight course. “I am warning anyone who is thinking of trying us. We do not face threats with our arms crossed.”

Commenting on the Turkish efforts to thwart Iranian plots, Lindenstrauss noted that Ankara does not see its role as a “balancer” between Israel and Iran, but wants to make sure that the negative repercussions of that conflict do not hurt its own economic relations by deterring tourists.

Lapid arrived in Ankara one day after Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman commenced his visit to Turkey for talks with President Tayyip Erdogan, seeking to fully normalize ties.

“There is a Saudi effort to bring Turkey closer, also against Iran,” said Lindenstrauss. “In such a Saudi framework, also Israel is seen as an important actor that is working against Iran, and hence the timing of the Saudi crown prince visit a day before Lapid’s visit has additional meaning.”

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