Turkey won't be Israel-Syria peacemaker

Turkey has passed messages and documents from Syria to Israel but will not act as mediator on a possible resumption of peace talks, Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul has said.

    Gul says Arab states should press on with domestic reforms

    "We received some messages and documents from the Syrian side at our request and conveyed these messages to the Israeli side and the US administration during our visit to Washington (on 29 January)," he told the London-based Arabic newspaper al-Hayat in an interview published on Wednesday.


    Gul gave no details of the Syrian messages and did not say whether Turkey had carried any messages in the other direction.


    Earlier in January Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said Gul would launch a new initiative to mediate between Israel and Syria, which held sporadic, but ultimately fruitless peace negotiations in the years up to 2000.


    Change in plan


    But Gul indicated a change in plan. "Turkey will not play the role of mediator between Syria and Israel, though it is a state with excellent relations with both parties."


    "It can convey a number of messages in a better way and perhaps help in moving the peace process," he added.


    "It can convey a number of messages in a better way and perhaps help in moving the peace process"

    Abdullah Gul,
    foreign minister, Turkey

    The Syrian and Israeli governments have both shown some interest in resuming negotiations, but they disagree on the terms.


    Israel says that talks should resume from scratch, Syria that they should build on progress made earlier.


    The main point of contention is the extent of an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights, which Israel captured from Syria in the Middle East war of 1967.


    Gul also said Arab states should press on with domestic reforms to prevent foreign intervention on the grounds of reform - a reference to the Washington Greater Middle East Initiative, widely criticised in the Arab world.


    "If we don't take the reins ... and prefer to cover up and ignore them (our problems), then others will try to solve them their way and interfere in our affairs," he said.


    "And this interference will take place in the wrong way because they don't understand our sensitivities, our habits, our cultures and our social structure," he added.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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