Turkish FM confirms talks with Israel on Gaza, bilateral ties
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, left, and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet DavutoĞlu, shake hands as they pose for cameras before their talks at the start of Barak's one-day visit, in Ankara, Turkey, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2010. (Photo: AP)
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said on Sunday that Turkey has had talks with Israel through diplomatic channels to revive bilateral ties but reiterated that reconciliation is not possible until Ankara's demands are met by the Israeli side.
In a televised interview on Sunday, Davutoğlu also said Turkey was actively involved in efforts to bring a halt to the recent eight-day violence in the Gaza Strip and backed the Egyptian-brokered truce.
“Turkey took an active part in the process. There was contact with the Israeli side to end the fighting in Gaza, which was causing human suffering. If there is a possibility to end a human tragedy, Turkey will talk with anybody,” the foreign minister said.
He stated that when the talks entered a deadlock, Turkey offered alternative formulations and had discussions with Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal on various alternatives before a truce deal was reached.
When asked about news reports claiming that senior diplomat Feridun Sinirlioğlu met with an envoy of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Geneva to discuss the resumption of diplomatic relations, Davutoğlu confirmed such efforts and said the meeting took place before outbreak of the violence in Gaza.
A Turkish news report said on Sunday that Sinirlioğlu and Netanyahu envoy Joseph Ciechanover met last week in Geneva and that the Israeli side expressed readiness to apologize for the May 2010 killing of nine Turks by Israeli commandos on a Gaza-bound aid ship and pay compensation for families of the victims, in order to restore diplomatic ties with Turkey.
The report, which appeared on Yeni Şafak daily, said, however, that Turkey also requested that Israel lift a blockade of Gaza Strip for normalization of ties. The Israeli side signaled that the blockade could be lifted if Turkey becomes a “guarantor” of peace between Israel and Hamas.
Davutoğlu did not comment on the Yeni Şafak report, but he asserted that the Turkish position regarding any reconciliation with Israel is clear, and Turkey's demands are not open to any negotiation or discussion. “We are ready to talk if they say they are ready to meet our conditions,” he said.
Backing for Egyptian leadership
As to the cease-fire deal, Davutoğlu dismissed suggestions that Turkey has been sidelined with Egypt's re-emergence as a new regional power as it mediated the truce between Hamas and Israel, saying that Ankara welcomes the political comeback of Egypt in the tumultuous region.
Turkey endorsed Egypt's leading role in brokering the truce between Hamas and Israel, he said, arguing that there is no competition for regional leadership between Turkey and Egypt.
“The truth is Turkey and Egypt have excellent cooperation in every area. This is essential for a stable, peaceful and prosperous region,” the foreign minister said, adding that Turkey supports Egypt's leading role in dealing with regional problems. “We want Egypt to gloriously return to the region[al politics],” he said.
Commenting on widespread protests against Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, who issued a decree on Friday widening his powers and shielding them from judicial review, Davutoğlu said: “Such processes start as a big wave and then you have smaller turbulences. The Egyptian revolution and Tahrir Square [protests] were the big wave. Now, this wave is trying to find its balance,” calling the new protests as “steps in direction of maturity of the Egyptian democracy.”
Turkey to support Palestinian bid at UN meeting
The foreign minister also announced that he, along with several other Cabinet ministers, might attend the UN General Assembly meeting in New York on Thursday to support a Palestinian bid for UN recognition of statehood.
The Palestinian Authority requests that the UN General Assembly upgrade its status from observer to non-member state on Nov. 29. The assembly will be asked to vote on the measure.
“If the application and [vote] process is completed by then, we will be there with many ministers in show of support,” he said.
In the meantime, Turkey responded to growing opposition to the planned deployment of NATO missiles on its border with Syria on Sunday, reiterating that the missiles are purely for defensive purposes.
“We see no reason that would justify these concerns, reactions,” Davutoğlu said when asked about Russian, Syrian and Iranian statements criticizing the Turkish request for NATO Patriots. “These systems are for defensive use only and they will not be activated unless there is a missile threat against our country,” he told the private CNN Türk television.