Turkish PM Erdogan: Conciliation With Israel Could Hasten Assad’s Fall

Turkish PM adds that renewal of ties may further peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, and says he might visit Gaza, West Bank in April; Netanyahu points to Syria crisis as motivation for mending ties.

ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid
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ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Saturday that the renewal of ties with Israel may hasten the fall of Syrian President Bashar Assad, as well as furthering the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. Erdogan was speaking to journalists at a ceremony dedicating the opening of a new railway line near the city of Konya.

Erdogan added that with the end of the crisis in Israel and Turkey's bilateral relations he may visit the Gaza Strip and the West Bank in April. He added that the implementation of the conciliation terms with Israel will be carried out gradually, noting that the exchange of ambassadors between Tel Aviv and Ankara would take place hand in hand with the progress made in compensation payments to the families of the victims of the Marmara flotilla.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also explained on Saturday that his decision to end the crisis in Israel's relations with Turkey was due to the worsening situation in Syria.

"Syria is unraveling, and the country's enormous stock of advanced weapons is starting to fall into the hands of various elements. The greatest threat is for chemical weapons to fall into the hands of terrorist organizations," the prime minister wrote Saturday evening in post on his Facebook page.

Netanyahu added that he is concerned by the establishment of a global Jihad presence along the Syrian border with the Ramat Hagolan. "It is important for Turkey and Israel, who share borders with Syria, to be able to communicate with one another, which is also necessary to face other regional challenges, too," wrote Netanyahu.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu revealed on Friday in an interview with Turkish TV that talks conducted behind the scenes had been going on for weeks between Turkey, Israel and the United States, in connection with the conciliation agreement. These talks were accelerated during the visit of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to Ankara on March 1. Kerry told Erdogan and Davutoglu that U.S. President Barack Obama was keen on using his trip to Israel as an opportunity for ending the crisis in Turkish-Israeli relations.

Davutoglu added that he had spoken to Kerry six times in the past week, with drafts of the Israeli apology exchanged daily through American mediation. This went on until Friday morning, several hours before Netanyahus joint phone conversation with Erdogan and Obama.

The Turkish foreign minister also revealed that before the phone conversation with Netanyahu, Erdogan called both Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) in Ramallah and Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh to update them on these developments. After talking to Netanyahu, he also called Khaled Meshal, head of the Hamas political bureau, and updated him as well.

Davutoglu and Erdogan both claimed in separate statements that the agreement met all of Turkey’s demands. Davutoglu added that this agreement could have been reached several times over the last few years, but Israel pulled back each time due to internal political considerations.

Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan being flanked by Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, left, Economy Minister Zafer Caglayan, right, and officials, Ankara, Turkey, March 19, 2013.Credit: Reuters

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