Turkey pressures Israel, seeks regional support

Turkey pressured Israel on Monday to accept an international inquiry into a deadly raid on Gaza-bound aid ships as regional leaders, gathering for security talks in Istanbul, lent support to Ankara.

The crisis between the once-close allies loomed large over Tuesday’s summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA), to be attended also by the Iranian, Syrian and Palestinian leaders.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said normalisation of ties with Israel would depend on whether it agrees to an international inquiry into the May 31 raid, in which nine Turks were killed.

“If Israel … gives the green light for the establishment of an international [inquiry] commission and is ready to answer to the commission, then naturally Turkish-Israeli ties will follow a different path,” Davutoglu told reporters.

“But if it continues to evade that, normalisation in relations would be out of the question,” he said.

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas called for fresh initiatives to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza, in place since 2006, and urged Hamas, which controls the impoverished territory, to reconcile with his Fatah faction.

“If these convoys have been unsuccessful in lifting the blockade, then efforts must undoubtedly be intensified,” he told Turkey’s NTV television.

“The best answer to [the raid] … is for Palestinian groups to reconcile and resist Israel hand in hand,” said the Palestinian leader, who was to travel on to Washington, DC, for talks with United States President Barack Obama.

The foreign ministers of Afghanistan and Pakistan also condemned the raid and voiced support for Turkey, after three-way talks with Davutoglu.

“The people of Pakistan are with you, the government of Pakistan is with you. We feel that there was no justification of this aggression,” Pakistan’s Shah Mehmood Qureshi said.

His Afghan counterpart, Zalmai Rassoul, also pledged “full support” for Turkey.

Bilateral talks
The three ministers met as part of a Turkish push since 2007 to help Afghanistan and Pakistan overcome their differences and cooperate against Islamist extremists.

Presidents Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, Bashar al-Assad of Syria, Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, Haydar Aliyev of Azerbaijan and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin were among the leaders scheduled to attend Tuesday’s summit.

Israel has also been invited, but only its ambassador to Turkey was likely to participate, a Turkish diplomat said.

A final declaration to be issued after Tuesday’s summit was expected to include a condemnation of Israel over its raid on the aid ship, another Turkish diplomat siad.

In a series of bilateral talks on Monday, Turkish President Abdullah Gul was to meet with Ahmedinejad to discuss efforts to resolve tensions over Tehran’s nuclear programme.

Last month Brazil and Turkey brokered a deal under which Iran agreed to ship 1 200kg of its low-enriched uranium to Turkey in return for high-enriched uranium fuel for a Tehran reactor to be supplied later by France and Russia.

Tuesday’s summit was to focus on issues such as nuclear disarmament, the peaceful use of nuclear energy and ways to boost confidence-building measures in Asia.

CICA was set up in 2002 to promote peace, security and stability in Asia.

The group currently has 20 members, some of them with a history of hostility, such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Egypt.

Turkey, a Nato member vying for European Union membership, has in recent years pushed for greater regional influence.

But its improving ties with Iran and Syria, as well as deteriorating relations with Israel, has led to concerns that the Islamist-rooted government in Ankara is shifting the country away from the West. — AFP

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