Ben-Eliezer (L) with FM Davutolu
Photo: AP
Trade Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer
Photo: Ofer Amram
Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan
Photo: AP
Turkish FM: Crisis with Israel over
After meeting Binyamin Ben-Eliezer in Ankara, Davutoglu says Turkey willing to resume role as mediator in Israel-Syria talks. Israeli minister: Turkey can help solve problems in Middle East'

The crisis in the relations between Turkey and Israel has ended, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Monday evening after meeting Israeli Industry, Trade, and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer in Ankara.


"There has always been an open channel of communication between the countries, and therefore there is no need for a new beginning," said Davutoglu, "We are willing to resume our role as mediators between Israel and Syria."


As for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Turkish FM called on the sides to "launch a new era."


Earlier Monday, Ben-Eliezer said Israel wants to improve and strengthen ties with key Muslim ally Turkey, which have soured over Israel's military operation in the Gaza Strip.


Ben-Eliezer, the first Israeli minister to visit Turkey since relations hit a low last winter, also said Turkey can help "solve problems in the Middle East."


Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Sunday that Turkey's scathing criticism of the Jewish state had disqualified it as a mediator of talks between Israel and Syria.


Muslim but secular Turkey has long been Israel's closest ally in the Muslim world and mediated months of indirect talks between Israel and Syria last year.


But ties deteriorated steeply after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who heads an Islamic-oriented government, strongly criticized Israel's military operation in Gaza and complained of the heavy Palestinian death toll.


The Turkish-mediated indirect talks between Syria and Israel were put on hold over the Gaza offensive.


Ben-Eliezer told a group of Turkish business representatives that Israel "wants to continue and strengthen relations, we want to clean the cloudy situation."


"As within families there are ups and downs," he said. "But the basis of the relationship is strong."

Later, Ben-Eliezer told Turkish reporters Turkey "can play a very important role in all problems in the Middle East, with the Palestinians and the Syrians."


He acknowledged there was a difference of opinion on Turkey's role as a mediator within Israel, saying Lieberman respects Turkey but believes that the country "is not yet ready to be a mediator in the conflict in the Middle East."


The state-run Anatolia news agency also quoted Ben-Eliezer as saying Turkey could help "to put things back on track" between Israel and Syria.


Earlier this month, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had also questioned Turkey's credentials as a mediator, reportedly telling his Cabinet that Erdogan could not be an "honest broker."


Last month, Turkey canceled a military exercise in which Israeli pilots were planned to participate.


Tensions deepened after Turkey's state-run TV aired a drama series that portrayed Israeli soldiers as cruel and repressive.


Ben-Eliezer is in Turkey for a two-day visit to co-chair annual economic talks between Turkey and Israel.


First published: 23.11.09, 17:37
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