Sunday, November 22, 2009

Lieberman: After all the insults, Turkey can't mediate Syria talks; PM: Turkey can return its Mediation role in exchange of Normalization

(Haaretz).Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Sunday said Turkey could not resume mediating Israel-Turkey peace talks, shortly before another minister, Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, was reportedly set to propose that the country did exactly that.

"Fuad's trip to Turkey is... an important trip, but has not been agreed upon by the Foreign Ministry," said Lieberman at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting, referring to the Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor by his moniker.

"After all of Turkey's insults and tongue-lashing against Israel, they can't be a mediator."

Tensions flared between the two countries in September after Turkey banned Israel from participating in a NATO air force drill. Ankara further strained relations last week when it refused to take off the air a television drama depicts Israeli soldiers killing Palestinian children.

On Saturday, sources in Jerusalem said Ben-Eliezer was expected to propose to Turkey that it resume its mediation role in exchange for a return to more cordial relations between Israel and Turkey.

The sources said that the policy was coordinated with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Foreign Ministry in advance of Ben-Eliezer's departure on an official visit to Turkey Sunday evening.

The sources say that Ben-Eliezer will stress that Israel will view Turkey as a mediator with Syria, but Turkey must first demonstrate a return to the normal relations that existed with Israel before a deterioration in ties at the beginning of the year in the wake of Operation Cast Lead in Gaza. The normalization will have to be shown through declarations and deeds, they say. Among such gestures, Ben-Eliezer will propose that Turkish President Abdullah Gul pay a visit to Israel and meet with President Shimon Peres.

In the course of Ben-Eliezer's visit, he will attempt to return economic, military, strategic and diplomatic ties to normal. The official reason for the minister's visit is the annual Turkish-Israeli economic conference. In the course of his trip, Ben-Eliezer will meet with the Turkish agriculture minister as well as the defense minister, who heads the Turkish delegation to the conference. Efforts have recently been underway to arrange a meeting with a high-level Turkish political figure. In the absence of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is abroad, a possible meeting with President Gul or with Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu is being explored.

"I hope my economic and political talks will make it possible to get the important relations between Israel and its Turkish strategic partner back on track," Ben-Eliezer said, adding, "Turkey has special ties with Israel, and as a regional and democratic-Muslim power."