Ben-Eliezer- Davutoglu meeting kept from Turkish ministers
Turkish newspapers say foreign minister took off in private jet for secret two-and-a-half hour long meeting with Israeli minister in Brussels luxury hotel room booked under third party's name. Meeting conducted without Foreign Minister Lieberman's knowledge, but he says he will not resign over incident
Turkish media on Thursday provided further details of the secret meeting that led to a coalitional storm in Israel. Local newspapers detailed how the meeting, between Israeli Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu was concealed. The NTV network reported that the two agreed to meet again in secret.
The meeting was held behind the back of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak were aware of the meeting and gave Ben-Eliezer their blessing.
Meanwhile, a Turkish official confirmed that the meeting was held in Brussels, and said it had taken place at Israel's behest, in an attempt to overcome the crisis between the two countries.
"The meeting took place in Brussels yesterday at Israel's behest," the official told AFP, "We sent a letter to Israel expressing our expectations and these expectations were raised again in the meeting."
A Turkish newspaper reported that the meeting, which was the first meeting between Israeli and Turkish officials since the raid on the Gaza-bound flotilla, was also kept a secret from local ministers.
According to Sabah newspaper, the meeting was held in a luxury hotel in Brussels, Belgium, and began at 12:30, local time. It lasted some two-and-a-half hours. The parties initially considered holding the meeting in Luxembourg, Zurich or Strasbourg.
The report said the hotel room was booked under a third party's name in order to keep the meeting a secret. The two ministers reportedly discussed ways to restore ties between Israel and Turkey.
Turkish network NTV reported that the meeting was also kept secret from Minister for EU Affairs Egemen Bagis and Agriculture Minister Mehdi Eker, who were in Belgium with the foreign minister.
Ben-Eliezer (L) and Davutoglu (Archive photo: AP)
Hurriyet newspaper reported that the foundations for the meeting were laid during a meeting between Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's meeting with US President Barack Obama, on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Canada, which Davutoglu also attended.
According to the report, the Ben-Eliezer-Davutoglu meeting focused on the matter of the ships that are still in Israel. The Turkish foreign minister reportedly laid out the terms for returning the ships from Israel.
He secretly took off in his private jet from Ankara to Zurich.
The Turkish newspapers also reported on Lieberman's anger at the secret meeting. On Wednesday, the foreign minister's office called it "a violation of all normal procedures," and said "it undermines the trust between the foreign minister and the prime minister. The foreign minister intends to clarify the incident."
The meeting was mediated by an Israeli business man and the American ambassador in Ankara.
Following the flotilla raid, the Turkish foreign minister said "all options are being considered" and threatened that ties with Israel would deteriorate if Jerusalem not does issue an official apology over the incident and agree to an international investigation.
'What kind of political culture is this?'
Conspicuously absent from the meeting was Foreign Minister Lieberman. In response to the omission, Lieberman came out against Netanyahu.
"What kind of political culture do we want to display in the State of Israel? What is a proper procedure?" wondered Lieberman in an interview Thursday with Kol Israel a day after Ben-Eliezer met in Europe with the Turkish foreign minister without his knowledge.
"As the hours pass, we hear that not only Fouad (Binyamin) Ben-Eliezer by chance contacted the prime minister. We are hearing that the defense minister was also involved, as well as senior officials in the Prime Minister's Office, and that the whole undertaking was coordinated with the US," said Lieberman.
After the matter broke Wednesday, the Prime Minister's Office reported that Lieberman was not kept in the loop for "technical reasons."
According to Lieberman, "It can't continue like this – both in terms of the move and the response to it. Tomorrow (Friday), I have a meeting with the prime minister that was scheduled at the beginning of the week. We will be in a work meeting with a more comfortable atmosphere, and I hope we air out the issue completely."
Lieberman, despite this, said that he does not intend to resign from the coalition.
Jonathan Weber and Roni Sofer contributed to this report