Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who arrived Sunday to Israel, expressed desire to play a role in the peace process, and proposed setting up a Turkish-Israeli-Palestinian working team to examine ‘how to combat terrorism, preserve the calm and make peace.’
Erdogan, who’s harsh condemnations of Israel’s targeted killing policy, caused tension between the two U.S. major allies in the Middle East, met Sunday with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, President Moshe Katsav, Ministers Shimon Peres and Ehud Olmert and opposition head Yosef Lapid.
Erdogan is scheduled to meet with Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom and attend prayers In Haram Al-Sharif before departing for meetings with the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah.
During meetings with Israeli officials, Erdogan asked them to give Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas time to fulfill his security commitments.
‘You have to help him more so he can succeed in the elections and have the power to meet his commitments, You have to be optimistic about implementing the road map, so terrorism doesn’t triumph.’ Erdogan told Sharon.
Sharon and Erdogan agreed to strengthen intelligence ties against terrorism, and to establish a direct communication channel between their bureaus.
Relations between Israel and Turkey were strained last year after Erdogan called Israel’s assassination of Hamas leaders ‘state terror.’ Now, it seems, Turkey again wants warmer ties with Israel.
The main topic on Erdogan agenda is the signing of a new deal to upgrade about 30 F-4 Phantoms belonging to the Turkish air force, at a cost of $400-500 million. Israel Aircraft Industries upgraded 54 Turkish Phantoms in a previous deal, in which they shared the work with Turkish industries. This time the Turks want all the work to be carried out at a Turkish air force base.