Israeli president says March Turkey trip targets climate crisis cooperation

Jerusalem: Israeli President Isaac Herzog has confirmed his planned trip to Turkey, saying it is part of his new plan to form regional cooperation to fight the climate crisis.

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“Over March I am going to visit our neighbours along the Mediterranean littoral — Greece, Cyprus, and Turkey — and meet their leaders,” Herzog told a climate change conference in Jerusalem on Wednesday.

He said he is also keeping “close and warm contact” with the leadership of Egypt, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, and the Palestinian authority and that he intends to “get them all on board for a regional partnership confronting the climate crisis”.

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Herzog cited a series of scientific studies conducted by Israel and the UN that predict an average rise of 4 degrees Celsius in temperatures in the Middle East, 10-20 per cent less precipitation on average, and an intensification of floods, torrential rains, heatwaves and rising sea levels, if no effective action is taken, Xinhua news agency reported.

“For anyone who does not understand what this means, let me explain: this spells a genuine catastrophe,” the President said.

“A catastrophe for everyone, for anyone living near the sea, for inhabitants of areas that will turn into deserts, for victims of lethal floods and heatwaves. It means fears of millions of refugees uprooted from their homes in Africa and the Middle East; it means a potential crisis in Gaza; it means disasters in Cyprus, Greece, Turkey. It means grave consequences for all of us, for everyone who is blessed to call this beautiful region ‘home,'” Herzog added.

“This is a fully-fledged existential threat,” he concluded.

His role as a President is largely ceremonial but since taking office in 2021, he has been employing diplomacy to improve Israel’s relations with Turkey. Ties between the two countries have been deeply strained since Israel’s deadly assault on a Turkish-led aid flotilla toward Israel-blockaded Gaza in 2010.

During his planned trip in March, Herzog will meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The two Presidents already spoke over the phone several times in 2021.

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