Barak arrives in Turkey
Turkish Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul
ANKARA – Defense Minister Ehud Barak arrived in Ankara Sunday surrounded by heavy guard, and despite threats of an arrest warrant for his involvement in Operation Cast Lead and the recent diplomatic crisis between Turkey and Israel, was received without uproar.
Barak laid a wreath on the grave of the founder of modern and secular Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, and said he had started a legacy of peace in the region.
"We stand here at the gravesite with great respect and admiration for the Turkish hero, whose legacy is peace and security," he said. "We are inspired by him to try to make our region an area of peace and security."
On Friday protestors gathered before the Israeli Embassy to protest Barak's visit, but none were seen there upon his arrival. No chances were taken however, following what many see as the Turkish ambassador's humiliation by Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, and he was supplied with heavy guard.
The defense minister's visit is being covered extensively by the Turkish press. Islamic papers condemn the trip, while more moderate papers, like Zaman, call for a change in Israeli treatment of Palestinians.
Barak has met with Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu to discuss the diplomatic crisis between the two countries. He is also scheduled to meet Turkish Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul later Sunday, after
which a joint press conference will be held.
Turkey is stressing issues such as the peace talks between Israel and Syria, which the state wishes to mediate. But Barak prefers to discuss strategic relations between the two countries, especially on the defense front, as well as peace talks with the Palestinians.