Israel and Turkey vow to improve ties

By Sami Kohen, November 26, 2009
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After nearly a year of strained ties, Israel and Turkey have vowed to improve their bilateral relations and discussed the prospect of Turkey mediating Israeli talks with Syria.

Israeli Minister for Industry, Trade and Labour, Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, spent two days in Turkey this week. It was the first such trip by an Israeli minister since Operation Cast Lead, which was the catalyst for a breakdown in relations between the allies.

Mr Ben-Eliezer met deputy PM Bulent Arinc and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. He also held an unscheduled meeting with President Abdullah Gul. PM Erdogan was on a visit to Libya.

“We want the improvement of Israeli-Turkish relations and we are working to that end,” Mr Arinc said. “Although we may have problems sometimes, our relations must be continuous.”

Mr Davutoglu said Turkey was prepared to resume the role of moderator in talks with the Syrians, which it abandoned early this year.

“Turkey’s channels of communication have remained open and there is no need for a new beginning.”

Mr Ben Eliezer praised Turkey’s “strategic weight” in the Mideast and hinted that Israel would favour a renewed Turkish mediation role — although both Mr Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Lieberman have said the opposite.

Asked about the contradiction, Mr Ben Eliezer said he came to Turkey with the support of the Israeli government.

Last updated: 4:42pm, November 26 2009