Turkish Pres. Plans to Visit Next Month

Turkish President Abdullah Gul is planning to visit Israel in early January. This will be his first visit as president, though he came here three times in his previous role as foreign minister.

A senior Turkish official told Haaretz that Gul will meet with President Shimon Peres, and that they will discuss advancing the indirect negotiations between Israel and Syria. They will also discuss the Iranian nuclear threat, an issue on which they disagreed sharply when Peres visited Ankara last year.

At that time, Gul said that Turkey believes every country is entitled to nuclear energy, and it therefore has no problem with Tehran's nuclear program.

Asked whether January, a month before Israel's elections, is a good time for the three-day visit, the official answered: "Relations between Turkey and Israel are important at every level, so regardless of the elections, we think this visit must take place."

Another issue on Gul's agenda will be Ankara's efforts to prevent the Turkish slaughter of Armenians in 1915 from being recognized as genocide. U.S. President-elect Barack Obama expressed willingness to recognize the killings as genocide during his campaign, and Gul is expected to ask Israel to use its influence in Washington to try to prevent this.