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Israel Moves to Repair Relations With Turkey

Israel's Industry and Trade Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer (r) shakes hands with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu before a meeting in Ankara, 23 Nov 2009

Benjamin Ben Eliezer told business leaders in Turkey Monday that Israel wants to clear a 'cloudy' situation

Israel's trade minister has called for better relations with Turkey nearly a year after relations soured because of Israel's offensive in the Gaza Strip against Hamas militants who control the territory.

Benjamin Ben Eliezer told business leaders in Turkey Monday that Israel wants to clear a "cloudy" situation. He also said Turkey could "play a very important role in all problems in the Middle East" including Israel's strained relations with the Palestinians and Syria.

The trade minister's comments contradicted a statement made by Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman Sunday. Lieberman said Turkey's criticism of Israel disqualified it as a mediator of talks between Israel and Syria.

Ben Eliezer is on a two-day visit to Turkey to chair an annual economic conference. He is scheduled to meet with Turkish President Abdullah Gul and other Turkish officials.

Israel and Turkey have enjoyed close diplomatic ties but their relationship has soured since Israel launched its 22-day war against Palestinian militants in Gaza in December. Turkey strongly criticized Israel over the offensive that resulted in the deaths of 1,200 Palestinians and 13 Israelis. Israeli officials say their offensive was designed to stop Palestinian militants from firing rockets into Israel and that great care was taken to avoid civilian casualties.

Turkey had also served as a mediator to restart peace talks between Israel and Syria but those talks broke down last year.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.