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Turkey undecided on recalling ambassador to Israel
by haaretz
Wednesday May 26th, 2004 12:31 PM
Israel`s ambassador to Ankara, Pini Aviv said on Wednesday that according to Turkey's foreign ministry, Ankara had not yet decided whether to recall its ambassador to Israel.
Aviv's statement came on the heels of remarks by Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, who said on Wednesday that Turkey was considering recalling its ambassador in Israel to Ankara for consultations, citing displeasure with the IDF's actions in the territories.

During a press conference held in Ankara, Gul said the move reflected Turkey's growing concerns over the Middle East peace process at a time when Israel was continuing its military offensive. "We are interested in the peace process and are following it closely in order to try and revive it... in order to make a proper assessment, we may recall our ambassador for several days for consultations, after which he will return," Gul told reporters.

Gul also said he was considering another option, of sending a senior diplomat to Ankara's consulate in Jerusalem, which oversees relations with the Palestinians. "There are other countries that have already done this," Gul said.

On Tuesday the Turkish parliament held a special hearing regarding the latest events in the Palestinian territories. Gul said during the discussion that Turkey would strengthen its ties with the Palestinian Authority.

Senior Turkish officials have recently increased their criticism of Israeli actions, often calling IDF actions in the territories a form of state terror.

Turkish PM: No difference between Israel's actions and acts of terrorists
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday criticized Israel's Rafah operation, saying that although Turkey also suffered from terrorism and was fighting it, he did not see a difference between what terrorists were doing and Israel's demolition of homes and the damage it was bringing to civilians.

Erdogan met with National Infrastructure Minister Yosef Paritzky, who said that the Turkish PM renewed offers to mediate between Israel and both the Palestinians and Syria.

Paritzky said the Turkish leader had been forthright in his criticism of Israel's assassination of two Hamas leaders and a recent huge raid on the Gaza Strip.

"The prime minister was very unhappy, to say the least," Paritzky told a small group of reporters.

"He claimed that the activities of the State of Israel do not promote peace...[But] he is willing to offer his services to mediate, negotiate and bring peace to the area."

Muslim but firmly secular Turkey has close economic and security ties with Israel, which regards Ankara as a valuable ally in the region, but has also traditionally supported Palestinian aspirations to statehood.

Erdogan, who had previously offered to mediate in the Middle East conflict, accused Israel in March of "terrorism" after the killing of Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin.

Speaking in a newspaper interview, he said then that the assassination had seriously damaged peace efforts and there was "nothing left to mediate".

"We shall be delighted for anyone - and of course Turkey - to be a power that will bring if not peace, at least some tranquillity to the area," Paritzky said.

"If the government of Turkey is willing to offer its good services... I'm certain we would be happy to accept."

Paritzky said Erdogan had also conveyed the message that Syria's President Bashar Assad, who made a landmark visit to Turkey in January, wanted peace with Israel.

Erdogan said in December that Turkey would like to help mediate between the two hostile neighbors, which held sporadic but fruitless peace negotiations until 2000.

Ankara's own relations with Damascus have recently thawed after years of frostiness related to rows over territory, water resources and Syrian support for Kurdish separatists in Turkey.

But Turkish diplomats said neither Israel nor Syria seemed very interested in the offer, and in February Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul specifically ruled out any mediation role.

Paritzky said Erdogan renewed his mediation offer. "He told me...he's willing to try to do it again if it will bring any results," he said.

Paritzky said Syria would have to do more to show it was serious about peace before Israel was convinced.

"If it is true that President Assad does indeed want peace and it's not just lip-service to the Western world...if indeed he's willing to go into this long and hard process of negotiating for peace, he will find us as partners," he said.

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/431877.html

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