Turkey to send delegation to Jerusalem to inspect excavations

A delegation of experts from Turkey will go to Jerusalem in the coming days to survey archeological work near the al-Aqsa Mosque that sparked reactions across the world,R.Tayyip Erdoðan announced yesterday.

Turkey to send delegation to Jerusalem to inspect excavations

The announcement came at Erdoðan's joint press conference with his visiting counterpart, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, following their talks in the capital.
    Only two days before his meeting with Olmert, Erdoðan harshly criticized Israel, accusing the Israeli government of violating agreements to protect holy sites and also of raising regional tensions by digging near the al-Aqsa Mosque. Olmert brought photographs of the construction work and showed them to him during their meeting, Erdoðan said.
    "I've only been to the region once. I don't know the place very well. I've seen photographs, but those photographs haven't fully satisfied me," the prime minister added.
    Olmert welcomed Turkey's decision to send a technical delegation, saying, "We have nothing to hide." "The work being conducted is being done outside the Temple Mount area. We are very happy to host the prime minister's team, and therefore the right, correct and exact story will come out," Olmert said.

Meanwhile, Olmert's visit was protested by separate groups in different venues of the Turkish capital as well as in Istanbul. The groups protested Israel, both for its dispute with Palestine and for its construction work near the al-Aqsa Mosque.
The meeting between Erdoðan and Olmert took longer than two hours although it was planned to finish in one. The two prime ministers held one-on-one talks for the most part of their long meeting.
While describing Turkey as a "proud Muslim country" and also praising Erdoðan's leadership, Olmert made it clear that Israel would welcome the Turkish government's peace initiatives in the region as he said Israel considered Turkey as a "bridge between Israel and the Muslim countries in the region."
Olmert also reaffirmed his offer of peace to Syria as long as Damascus stopped supporting terror groups. "We want to make peace with Syria, we are happy to make peace with Syria, but Syria has not stopped supporting the path of terror and instead needs to accept the principles that the international community has set," Olmert said. "I have no doubt that under such conditions it will be very easy to speak with Syria."
Ankara has offered to mediate in fresh talks between Syria and Israel. The issue apparently came on the agenda during talks between Olmert and Erdoðan, with the latter announcing at a subsequent press conference that he planned to hold talks with the Syrian leadership "in the coming weeks" and discuss the matter with them.
"We have to encourage positive developments between the two sides. I am personally optimistic because if we stay optimistic, we will be able to get results," Erdoðan said in response to a question from an Israeli journalist who asked him whether he believed in Damascus' sincerity.
Talks between Israel and Syria over the Golan Heights, which Israel captured in the 1967 war, collapsed in 2000 after Damascus insisted on regaining control of the strategic piece of land. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has repeatedly signaled an interest in talks since Israel's inconclusive war last year in Lebanon with Syrian-backed Hezbollah guerrillas.
The situation has been complicated by US charges that Syria supports Iraqi insurgents -- an allegation that Damascus denies -- as well as Syria's open sponsorship of Palestinian militants.

Erdoðan to invite national unity gov't to Ankara
During the press conference, the Turkish prime minister urged Israel as well as the Quartet -- the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia -- to give the new Palestinian government a chance.
"I have stressed that the new Palestinian government is a hope. I think a positive approach by Israel and the Middle East Quartet would be beneficial," Erdoðan said. "It is not possible to solve this with Mahmoud Abbas alone and there is a need for a strong government that stands on its own feet. The formation of a consensus government could positively affect the process."
Last week, Hamas agreed to join a national unity government with Abbas' more moderate Fatah movement. Israel and the West have reserved judgment, insisting that any Palestinian government must recognize Israel, renounce violence and accept previous peace deals.
Israel, the United States and European Union ban contact with Hamas, which they label a terror group. Last year, Turkey was harshly criticized by its Western allies when Ankara hosted a Hamas delegation in February 2006. "It is not possible to get anywhere with a Hamas that does not recognize Israel's existence," Olmert said yesterday in Ankara.
When asked whether a Hamas government could approach the point where the Israeli government wants them to be, Erdoðan first of all noted that he would invite members of the new government to Ankara once the national unity government was formed.
"We will talk about these issues with them. After talking about these issues, then I can tell you if I see my hopes coming true," Erdoðan said.
Of note, Turkish journalists were surprised to see a quiet Erdoðan when Olmert used the words "Israel's capital city of Jerusalem," as Ankara accepts Tel Aviv as Israel's capital city.


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Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16