Israel no longer
trusts Turkey, Erdogan says
Israel no longer trusts Turkey
to mediate peace talks with Syria, Turkish Prime Minister
Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday, signaling how much
relations have deteriorated between the regional allies
in recent months.
Erdogan singled out Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for
failing to trust Ankara, unlike his predecessor Ehud Olmert,
and also said he did not think Syrian President Bashar al-Assad
would accept a French role in mediating with Israel.
Turkey, NATO's only Muslim member, last year facilitated
contacts that focused on Syrian demands for a full withdrawal
from the Golan Heights -- which Israel captured in 1967 and
annexed -- and Israel's accusations that Damascus arms
militants in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.
Those contacts failed to produce formal negotiations, and
Turkey's repeated offers to re-open the peace track have not
resulted in further talks. Under Netanyahu, Israel has ruled
out resuming Turkish-mediated talks with Syria, insisting that
any new contacts must be direct.
"On this issue of mediation, Israel's stance is that it doesn't
trust us," Erdogan told a news conference in Rome, where he was
attending a UN food summit.
"Former Israeli Prime Minister Olmert trusted Turkey, but
Netanyahu doesn't trust us. That's his choice," he said in
remarks which were televised in Turkey.
Relations between Turkey and Israel have soured since the
latter launched an incursion into the Gaza Strip in
Erdogan, whose ruling party traces its roots to a banned
Islamist movement, has repeatedly criticized the incursion,
even having a public shouting match with Israeli President
Shimon Peres in January.
Netanyahu and Assad met French President Nicolas Sarkozy
separately last week, and Israel said it is ready for
"Now France is trying to take up the role we had," Erdogan
said. "I'm not sure what kind of stance Bashar Assad will take,
but from what I've heard from him, they're not going to accept
something like this."