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Turkish PM Vents Frustration with Israel


Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has criticized Israel's policy toward the Palestinian militant movement Hamas, following his recent public spat with Israel's president.

In an interview with The Washington Post published Saturday, Mr. Erdogan says it was wrong of Israel not to include Hamas in peace talks. He explained that he was not saying Hamas is a good organization, but he said the Israeli offensive was excessive.

Mr. Erdogan abruptly left a debate in anger Thursday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland after Israeli President Shimon Peres delivered a lengthy defense of the offensive in Gaza.

In the Post newspaper interview, Mr. Erdogan reiterated that his frustration is with the Israeli government, and not with Jews.

The Turkish prime minister also said he was very close to arranging direct talks between Israel and Syria just days before the Gaza offensive.

He said he was nearing a breakthrough following talks with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Turkey has been mediating indirect Israeli-Syrian negotiations over the past year.

In return for peace, Syria has been demanding the return of the Golan Heights, a strategic plateau that Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 Mideast war. Israel wants Syria to cut ties with Iran and militant groups including Hamas.

The last direct negotiations between the two sides stalled in 2000.

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