NEW YORK - Turkish President Abdullah Gul clarified Monday morning that he would not be meeting with President Shimon Peres in New York due to a tight schedule.
He added, however, that "we will not forgive Israel for those killed in the Israeli attack on the aid flotilla, even if Israel apologizes." His remarks were quoted by Turkey's official Anatolia news agency.
According to Israeli sources, the meeting was thwarted due Peres' refusal to apologize for the deadly Navy raid. The sources said th Turks demanded the apology as a condition for holding meeting.
The meeting was initiated by Gul, who even told the Turkish media about it, but talks with Israeli officials revealed that the Turks had tried to push Israel into a corner.
Peres told reporters after addressing the UN General Assembly that he had been pressured by the Turks to apologize but refused.
"I was asked if I would attend a panel organized by President Clinton together with President Gul, and I agreed," Peres said. "They suggested that President Gul and I meet, and I agreed. And then I received all kinds of inappropriate conditions. We remain Turkey's friends, but Turkey has changed its mind. We're not ready for unacceptable preconditions."
Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, who is currently in New York, said that "Israel is not the one who should apologize. The Turks are the ones who should apologize."
As for the relations between Turkey and Israel, the deputy foreign minister said that it was in the interest of both sides to ease the tensions.
'Israeli-Palestinian conflict a serious threat'
Speaking at a press conference in New York, Gul also addressed the issue of peace in the Middle East, saying that "the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not limited to the Middle East. This issue is a source of problems in other parts of the world too. It's a serious threat to the world."
The Turkish president's New York schedule includes many meetings with representatives from all around the world, including Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
"The cooperation with Turkey and our attempts to reach an understanding between Iran and the five world powers and Germany will be discussed in the talks. I believe that many leaders will dedicate several paragraphs in their speeches to Iran, because it's one of the problems troubling the world," Gul added, saying he would not criticize Iran.
The Turkish president arrived in New York with his country's foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, who has at least 50 meetings on his schedule.
An official at Peres' office said in response that "the meeting between the two was not canceled as it was never set in an organized manner." The official added that Peres was not slated to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas either.
Peres and Gul are slated to appear on the same stage as part of a panel held on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly meeting, together with Palestinian President Abbas.
The last time Peres sat on the same stage with a senior Turkish official was at the World Economic Forum in Davos after the Israeli operation in Gaza, when Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan stormed off after a heated exchange of words.
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