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