Contact with Israel will not be cut off, says Babacan

Contact with Israel will not be cut off, says Babacan

Foreign Minister Ali Babacan was met by joyful locals in Pristina, Kosovo, on Wednesday.

January 15, 2009, Thursday/ 19:46:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN WITH WIRES

Diplomatic relations with Israel will not be suspended even under very difficult conditions, Foreign Minister Ali Babacan has said, noting, however, that what matters to Ankara is the subject matter of their contact with Tel Aviv.

Babacan's remarks came in Pristina late on Tuesday during a joint press conference following talks with his Kosovar counterpart, Skender Hyseni. In response to a question on Turkish-Israeli ties, which have been strained since Israel launched its deadly ongoing offensive into Gaza in late December, Babacan first of all noted that Turkey recognizes Israel.

"Turkey has diplomatic relations with Israel. Turkey is a country which is in contact with Israel at different levels. This contact will not be cut off, even under the most difficult of conditions. It goes on at different levels. However, on the other hand, the content of these contacts and possible visits is by all means important. We are always open to meetings aimed at yielding results and particularly to meetings that are related to maintaining a permanent peace following an immediate cease-fire in the region," Babacan said.

Since the beginning of the Gaza attacks, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has lambasted Israel in public statements -- in one case saying its Gaza offensive would bring a "curse" -- and halted regular communications with Jerusalem. On a Middle Eastern tour after the launch of the operation, Erdoğan kept Israel off his itinerary.

Turkish officials say Erdoğan told his party in a closed-door session last week that he would not contact Israeli officials until a cease-fire is in place. And newspapers have reported that Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni's recent request to visit Ankara was denied.

"Our door is open if you want to come. But if you're coming just to show that everything is OK with Turkey, then don't. Let's talk cease-fire conditions when you come. If you feel ready to do so, then you should come," Babacan had told Livni then, Today's Zaman learned from reliable sources.

Yesterday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who is expected to arrive in the Turkish capital on Friday, met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo in an effort to forge a diplomatic end to the violence.

Analysts say the high-profile envoys and ministers have little to contribute to the attempts to reach a cease-fire, which largely depend on how Israel and Hamas see their prospects of achieving their tactical and strategic goals, the Reuters news agency reported from Cairo yesterday.

"The one exception is Turkey, whose officials have spoken to both Hamas and Israel and which has offered to contribute personnel to secure the Egyptian-Gaza border," Reuters said.

Erdoğan's top foreign policy adviser, Ahmet Davutoğlu, who arrived in the Syrian capital over the weekend, has been engaging in shuttle diplomacy between Egyptian officials and Hamas leaders in a bid to reach a cease-fire agreement in the Gaza Strip.

"Calling our current efforts 'mediation' is not right. However, Turkey, as a country in which a lot of countries and groups have confidence, has been involved in intense diplomacy. Don't these efforts have risks? They do, but politics and diplomacy are risks. If the issue is human life, we take all kinds of risks and do our best to solve the problem," Babacan said in Pristina, when asked about Turkey's role in international efforts for a cease-fire in Gaza.

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