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Turkish Foreign Minister Brings Syrian Peace Message to Israel


Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul is on a mission to Israel with a two-fold purpose: improve ties with the Jewish state and offer to serve as intermediary with Syria on the possible resumption of peace talks.

The dominant theme of the Gul visit has been the Turkish officials offer for his country to serve as an intermediary to get peace talks between Syria and Israel restarted.

While visiting the Yad Vashem holocaust memorial, Mr. Gul said he believes Syria wants peace. He told a news conference Turkey could use its good relations with all the countries of the region - Syria and Lebanon, as well as Israel - to facilitate a resumption of talks. "We should use our friendship," said Abdullah Gul. "We should contribute. Since Turkey has a good relation with them now we are doing our best."

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon did not mention Syria by name but, at a welcoming ceremony for the visiting Turkish official at his office, he said he believes the Gul visit could help bring quiet and possibly peace to the region. Mr. Sharon has insisted Syria must stop its support of "terrorist" groups and close the offices of Palestinian militant organizations in Damascus, if it is serious about peace.

Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom repeated that call during a joint news conference with Mr. Gul. Mr. Shalom also said Turkey could play an important role in helping get the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process moving again. "Turkey can help the Israelis and Palestinians, at the same time, to narrow the gaps and I think we should do everything we can in order to try to move together toward peace," said Silvan Shalom.

During meetings with Israeli officials, Mr. Gul has also been laying the groundwork for a future visit to Israel by Turkish Prime Minister Reccip Tayyip Erdogan. Relations between the two countries have been strained ever since Mr. Erdogan accused Israel of state terrorism against the Palestinians.