Turkey Deputy PM: Our Ties With Israel Must Improve

During Ben-Eliezer visit, Turkey FM says Ankara willing to resume mediating Israel-Syria peace talks.

The Turkish deputy prime minister, Bulent Arinc, said on Monday that Turkey-Israel relations must improve, during a meeting in Ankara with Industry, Labor and Trade Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer.

"The diplomatic relations between the two countries have known ups and downs, but they must stabilize," said Arinc, adding that the ties must improve with regard to "every issue."

Ben-Eliezer said in response that Israel and Turkey must remain strategic allies and that the Israeli people want the relations to continue.

"The Israeli people want to return to good relations with Turkey," the minister said. He added that in was in the two countries' mutual interests to strengthen the relations.

Earlier on Monday the minister urged Turkey to resume its role as mediator in peace negotiations between Israel and Syria, a day after Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Ankara's impartiality had been canceled out by its "insults and tongue-lashing against Israel."

Turkey's foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, later confirmed that Israel had requested that his country resume mediating the talks.

"We are willing to mediate between the two countries and contribute to the political process in the region, and hope that we will begin a new era on the Palestinian issue and in everything connected to peace talks in the region," Davutoglu said.

Israeli sources said over the weekend that the move had been coordinated with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Foreign Ministry in advance of Ben-Eliezer's departure to Turkey on Sunday evening.

The sources say that Ben-Eliezer will stress during his visit that Israel will view Turkey as a mediator with Syria, but Turkey must first demonstrate a return to the normal relations that existed with Israel before a deterioration in ties at the beginning of the year in the wake of Operation Cast Lead in Gaza.

The normalization will have to be shown through declarations and deeds, they say. Among such gestures, Ben-Eliezer will propose that Turkish President Abdullah Gul pay a visit to Israel and meet with President Shimon Peres.

In the course of Ben-Eliezer's visit, he will attempt to return economic, military, strategic and diplomatic ties to normal.

The official reason for the minister's visit is the annual Turkish-Israeli economic conference. In the course of his trip, Ben-Eliezer will meet with the Turkish agriculture minister as well as the defense minister, who heads the Turkish delegation to the conference.

Efforts have recently been underway to arrange a meeting with a high-level Turkish political figure. In the absence of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is abroad, a possible meeting with President Gul or with Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu is being explored.

"I hope my economic and political talks will make it possible to get the important relations between Israel and its Turkish strategic partner back on track," Ben-Eliezer said, adding, "Turkey has special ties with Israel, and as a regional and democratic-Muslim power."