Turkey tells ally Israel it opposes Iran nukes
Mon 29 May 2006 8:19 AM ET
ANKARA, May 29 (Reuters) - Turkey reassured its ally Israel on Monday that it opposed Iran, arch-foe of the Jewish state, acquiring nuclear weapons and said it wanted to see the whole Middle East region freed of the atomic threat.
"Turkey is completely against the proliferation of nuclear weapons," Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul told a joint news conference with his visiting Israeli counterpart Tzipi Livni, replying to a question about Iran.
"We encourage cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and believe that especially countries signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) have a responsibility to act with full transparency."
The United States and its Western allies believe Iran is trying to build a nuclear bomb, though Tehran insists its atomic programme is aimed solely at producing energy.
Predominantly Muslim but secular and non-Arab Turkey is the only NATO ally to share a border with Iran and it has trodden carefully in its approach to Tehran, with which it also has important energy and trade relations.
Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has met Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during recent gatherings of Islamic countries in Azerbaijan and in Indonesia. Diplomats say Erdogan has urged the Iranian leader to cooperate fully with the IAEA.
Ahmadinejad has publicly called for the destruction of Israel, in comments that drew condemnation from Turkish as well as U.S., European and other leaders.
Israel itself is widely believed to have nuclear weapons but has never confirmed or denied their existence and, unlike Iran, is not a party to the NPT.
Gul skated around this issue -- one often raised by critics of the Jewish state, especially in the Arab world.
"I do not say that this or that state has nuclear weapons, but we believe in a (Middle East) region that has good neighbourly relations and is free of nuclear weapons," he said.
Turkey is one of the few countries in the Muslim world to have strong trade and security ties with Israel, though the Jewish state expressed concern when senior leaders of Hamas visited Ankara in February after winning Palestinian elections.
Hamas refuses to accept Israel's right to exist.
Israel's Livni made no mention of the Hamas visit but she described Israeli-Turkish relations as "excellent". Gul said bilateral trade was poised shortly to double to $5 billion.
"I believe in open lines between our states, which share the same values of democracy," said Livni, who was also due to meet Erdogan and President Ahmet Necdet Sezer later on Monday.
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
Both countries promote a two-state solution and prefer a negotiated settlement, but Turkish foreign minister falls short of endorsing Israeli plan of unilateral withdrawal
ANKARA - Turkish Daily News
Turkey and Israel mended fences after a crisis in ties over a visit earlier this year by a delegation from radical Palestinian group Hamas, when Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni had talks with top Turkish leaders on her first visit abroad yesterday.
The two countries pledged to boost bilateral trade to $5 billion and discussed energy cooperation, when Livni met with Foreign Minister Abdullah GÃ¼l and the Israeli minister underlined that the tension stemming from the Hamas visit was over.
Despite the positive outlook, the two regional allies promoted different formulas for an eventual two-state solution in the Middle East; GÃ¼l declined to endorse Israel's plan for unilateral withdrawal from Palestinian territories and draw its borders on its own.
Calling for a negotiated solution on the basis of the existing road map, GÃ¼l said, â€œThere is no other way.â€
Israeli officials say their preferred solution is a negotiated one but complain negotiations on the basis of the road map are not possible as long as Hamas remains in power in Palestine and refuses to accept conditions put forward by the international community.
â€œUnilateral steps are not Israel's ideology. What Israel is trying to do right now is to find a way out of a situation in which we are -- unwillingly in a way -- in control of Palestinian life,â€ Livni said. â€œI hope the international community and Turkey, as a friend not only of Israel but also of the Palestinian people, will support a process that represents such a vision,â€ she said.