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Turkish Prime Minister Visits the West Bank

The Turkish prime minister met with Palestinian leaders Monday in the West Bank. Turkey hopes to play a greater role in the Middle East peace process.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan (left) with Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan began his visit to the West Bank town of Ramallah by laying a wreath at the tomb of the late Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat. Then he met the new Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, to discuss the Middle East peace process.

Mr. Erdogan is the latest in a growing list of world leaders who have visited the region since Mr. Arafat's death, each hoping to play a role in ending four-and-a-half years of conflict.

"We are ready to do whatever is required to achieve peace," Mr. Erdogan told a joint news conference with Mr. Abbas.

The Turkish prime minister believes his country could be an effective mediator. Though Turkey is a predominantly Muslim nation, it enjoys warm relations with both Israel and the Palestinians. Economic and military ties with Israel got a boost on Sunday, when Mr. Erdogan met with Israeli leaders, and signed a cooperation agreement.

Mr. Abbas said a Turkish role is acceptable to the Palestinians and Israel. "I can imagine that if negotiations are sponsored by Turkey, they would be successful," he said.

In a gesture to the Palestinians, Turkey gave the Palestinian Authority the title deeds to property in the West Bank and Gaza acquired during the nearly 400-year rule of the Ottoman Empire. A Turkish newspaper said the deeds would help the Palestinians defend their rights in local and international courts. Turkey also plans to provide 25,000 uniforms to the Palestinian police force.