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Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman
Photo: Reuters
Lieberman: Turkey can't be mediator
Foreign minister says 'After slander and nonsense on Turkey's part, which said it prefers Sudanese murderer to Israeli PM, it cannot mediate' for Israel. Meanwhile, Industry, Trade, Labor Minister Ben-Eliezer to travel to Turkey, hopes to improve ties

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman commented on Sunday on Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer's upcoming visit to Turkey saying, "After all of the slander and nonsense on Turkey's part, which said it would prefer a Sudanese murderer to the Israeli prime minister, it cannot mediate" for Israel.

 

Before Sunday's cabinet meeting, Lieberman said Ben-Eliezer's visit is "important, but not coordinated with the Foreign Ministry".

 

On the possibility of the Palestinians unilaterally declaring statehood, Lieberman said: "This was not discussed in any forum or any cabinet. I hope this is nothing more than rumors. Yisrael Beiteinu will firmly object to it."

 

Ben-Eliezer will be heading a large delegation to Turkey for talks in a joint Israel-Turkey committee in Istanbul and Ankara. During his visit, he will also hold several meetings with high-ranking officials.

 

On Saturday the minister told Ynet he hopes his economic and diplomatic meetings will return relations between Israel and its strategic partner to their familiar path: "One of the most important goals of the visit is to hold talks at the highest levels in order to prompt the relationship between the two states back into what it used to be," he said.

 

"Turkey has a special place in my heart and a special connection with Israel," Ben-Eliezer added. "Turkey, as a regional and Muslim-democratic power, has the ability to bridge the gaps between us and our neighbors and lead to normalization and co-existence in the region."

 

Relations between Israel and Turkey have been in a slump for nearly a year now, ever since Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's outbursts against Israel during, and following Operation Cast Lead in Gaza.

 

Since then, Turkey has called off a joint military drill with Israel. A Turkish television program depicting Israeli soldiers as bloodthirsty child killers was aired shortly after, and caused further escalation in relations with Israel.

 

When asked whether he will be conveying a message to the Turks from Israel's political establishment, the minister said: "The message we have has to do with our interest in maintaining our strategic relationship with them."

 

Officials in Israel estimate that Ben-Eliezer enjoys a special status in Turkey as result of warm ties he was able to create with various officials in Ankara over the years.

 

The minister said he intends to "take advantage of this trip in order to do everything possible and convince them that this bilateral relationship requires us to go back to what it used to be."

 

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