Israel and Turkey agree bilateral ties back on track
First official meeting between Israel, Turkey since crisis erupted in September ends on positive note.
President Shimon Peres and Turkish President Abdullah Gul said following their official meeting on Friday that they have agreed to resume positive and stable diplomatic relations between the two countries.
The two leaders met at the sidelines of the Copenhagen climate summit on Friday, in the first official meeting between Israeli and Turkish leaders since a crisis erupted between the two countries in September.
Tensions between Israel and Turkey escalated last September, after Turkey banned Israel from taking part in a NATO air force drill. Ankara further strained relations when it refused to take off the air a television drama depicting Israeli soldiers killing Palestinian children.
Peres and Gul discussed the Middle East peace process between Israel and its neighboring Arab countries, and focused on the stalled negotiation process with the Palestinian Authority.
The Turkish President told Peres that his country was interested in assisting in promoting the regional peace process, and added that Turkey has enjoyed strong ties with Israel for years, which will persist in the future.
Peres explained to Gul Israel's in depth policy in the Gaza Strip, and said that "the Hamas is responsible for the suffering of the Palestinians living in Gaza."
"If Hamas would alter its policies the situation in Gaza will irrevocably change as well," Peres said.
At the end of their official meeting, the Turkish president accepted President Peres's invitation to visit Israel.
Next month Defense Minister Ehud Barak is scheduled to travel to Turkey to meet Turkish Defense Minister Vecdu Gonul.
Also on Friday, Israeli media quoted Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan as saying that Turkey would be willing to renew its role as mediator in talks between Damascus and Jerusalem.
Erdogan's comments come as a response to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's statements earlier in the year that Turkey was no longer wanted as mediator in its talks with Syria after it had suspended its role in the wake of Israel's offensive in the Gaza Strip last winter.
However, late last month, Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer visited Turkey in a bid to ease tensions between the two countries. During his visit, Ben-Eliezer urged Turkey to resume its role in negotiations
Earlier an aide to U.S. Mideast envoy George Mitchell met the Syrian Foreign Minister in Damascus on Thursday in an apparent attempt to advance Israel-Syria talks, Israel Radio quoted Lebanon's Al Safir newspaper as saying on Friday.
According to the newspaper report, Frederic C. Hof and Syria's Walid Moallem convened to restart negotiations between Israel and its neighbor to the north, stalled since a Turkey-mediated round of low-level talks reached a dead-end late last year.