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Turkey's Leader Visits Israel to Improve Ties

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has arrived in Israel Sunday for a visit aimed at bolstering Turkey's relations with the Jewish state and giving Ankara a role in Middle East peace efforts.

Mr. Erdogan is to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and President Moshe Katsav in Jerusalem during his two-day visit, and he also will sign a research and development agreement. The Turkish leader is expected to travel to the West Bank for talks with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, as well.

Before leaving Turkey, Mr. Erdogan renewed an offer for his country to join Middle East peace mediation efforts. He says Turkey is ready to help, if asked.

Turkey, an overwhelmingly Muslim state, has long had close military ties and trade links to Israel. Their relations became strained last year, however, when the Turkish prime minister, whose party has its roots in Turkey's Islamic movement, strongly criticized Israel's treatment of the Palestinians.

Some information for this report provided by AP and AFP.