'Palestine Today Is an Open-Air Prison'

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Tensions between Israel and Turkey broke into the open at the World Economic Forum in Davos this week when Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan blasted Israel for its offensive in Gaza. Excerpts from Erdogan's interview with Newsweek-The Post's Lally Weymouth:

Q: You've been so critical of the recent Israeli operation into Gaza. Some say it's because Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert came to Turkey just before the operation started and didn't tell you about it. Why have you pushed the Turkish-Israeli relationship to its limits?

A: [That's] the wrong view.

What is the correct view?

At the request of Syria, we entered a phase of working together with Israel and Syria indirectly to get them to talk with each other. We are mediators in that process. This was an example of how much importance we put on peace in the Middle East. We had done this before with Pakistan and Israel. . . .

During the tenure of [former Pakistani president] Pervez Musharraf, we brought them together in Istanbul: the foreign minister of Israel and the foreign minister of Pakistan.

And what happened?

The meetings took place for two days in secret about two years ago. We also took part in the peace talks between Israel and Palestine.

Between Israel and Fatah or Israel and Hamas?

I'm referring to the Palestinian Authority and President Mahmoud Abbas. On December 23 we had a meeting with Prime Minister Olmert in Ankara. On that day we had the fifth round of the unofficial talks between Syria and Israel. That night . . . I was talking on the phone to Syrian President Bashar Assad, and I was talking to Olmert in person and also to the Syrian foreign minister.

Were you trying to move the process to direct talks between Israel and Syria?

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