Netanyahu: Turkey Can't Be 'Honest Broker' in Syria Talks

Spanish FM says Turks 'will fall in line' if they serve as mediator in peace talks between Israel and Syria.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu does not want Ankara serving as mediator in any future diplomatic negotiations with Syria, in view of the crisis in relations between Israel and Turkey.

On Friday, Israel's ambassador in Ankara, Gabi Levy, officially protested to Turkey's Foreign Ministry about a drama aired on public television in which actors portrayed Israeli soldiers executing Palestinians.

The tensions became a major issue during a meeting between Netanyahu and his visiting Spanish counterpart, Jose Luis Zapatero. During the meeting, Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos told Netanyahu that the Turks "will fall in line" if they serve as mediator between Israel and Syria.

Netanyahu said he objects to Turkey resuming its role as mediator and does not see how the country can become "an honest broker" between the two sides.

During Ehud Olmert's tenure as prime minister, Turkey mediated five rounds of talks between Israeli and Syrian officials. Toward the end of Olmert's term the two sides were on the verge of resuming direct negotiations.

At the last meeting between Olmert and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish leader called Syrian President Bashar Assad and relayed messages to and from Olmert. But after Operation Cast Lead earlier this year and the freeze in negotiations with Syria, Erdogan said Olmert had stabbed him in the back.

Zapatero and Moratinos had arrived in Jerusalem from Damascus; they told Netanyahu that they were impressed by the Syrian leader's sincerity about the peace process.

"Assad is serious and more responsible," one of them reportedly told him. "He wants dialogue with the U.S. and it is possible to reach an agreement with him." Netanyahu expressed doubts, saying he saw no sign that Assad was serious.

Political sources in Jerusalem have said in recent days that in view of the growing tension between Israel and Turkey, the U.S. administration has told Turkish diplomats that restoring relations was an American interest.

Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said over the weekend that "relations with Turkey are in a difficult state but can be restored with quiet and careful diplomatic efforts."

Israel's ambassador to Ankara lodged an official protest with the Turkish Foreign Ministry during a meeting with the ministry's deputy director for the Middle East. Israel protested against the Turkish television series portraying atrocities against Palestinians by Israeli troops.

"The government and the Israeli people are disappointed and concerned by this series," ambassador Gabi Levy was quoted as saying.

Viewer ratings of the first episode of the series, however, show that interest was low, at 8 percent. "In view of the ruckus in Israel, the ratings of the second episode will rise dramatically," a source at the Foreign Ministry said.

Meanwhile, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said over the weekend that there had been no political intent in broadcasting the series. "The Foreign Ministry does not advise television programming," he said.