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Israeli, Palestinian Leaders Meet in Turkey

The Turkish capital, Ankara, is hosting the Israeli and Palestinian presidents. The two leaders are meeting with their Turkish counterpart and the prime minister. The visit comes ahead of an expected peace summit in the United States. Dorian Jones reports for VOA from Istanbul.

The official reason for the visit of the Israeli President Shimon Peres and his Palestinian counterpart Mahmoud Abbas is to confirm the construction of a Turkish-backed industrial park on the West Bank.

But, analysts say the real goal of the trip is to set the stage for a peace summit in Annapolis, Maryland, later this year.

President Peres says his country supports the effort for peace. He says hard work remains ahead.

"I think all of us would like not to make the Annapolis meeting a failure. If it will succeed, it won't be perfect success. But, if it will fail, it will be perfect failure," Mr. Peres said.

After meeting with his Israeli counterpart, Turkish President Abdullah Gul stressed his country is a close friend of both Israel and the Palestinians. Ankara has strong political and military ties with Israel and has, for decades, been one of Israel's closest allies in the Muslim world. At the same time, it has kept strong ties with the Palestinians. Turkey, which once ruled the region, has particular interest in helping to find peace, according to International relations specialist Soli Ozel of Istanbul's Bilgi University.

"The Turkish public believes being the inheritors of the empire Turkey may have a special role to play in the Middle East; that It should try to play that role and it should try to place this in an even-handed fashion," he said.

Both the Israeli and Palestinian leaders to address the Turkish parliament. It will be the first time an Israeli president has addressed the body. According to Turkish reports the two Middle Eastern leaders will meet for private talks, to discuss the upcoming summit.

While Turkey is trying to facilitate peace efforts, tensions with Israel over Iran are apparent. During the meeting with his Turkish counterpart, President Peres emphasized that Israel will never tolerate a nuclear Iran. President Gul insists Iran has the right to the peaceful pursuit of nuclear technology. Last week, the Turkish parliament passed legislation to start its own nuclear power program.