Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, left, and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan

Turkey Mediates in Latest Round of Israel–Syria Peace Talks

May 22, 2008 12:05 PM
by Anne Szustek
Israel and Syria are negotiating in Turkish capital Ankara. The two countries have never reached a formal peace accord.

30-Second Summary

Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad asked Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to mediate when Assad said he received word from Israel that it would forfeit the Golan Heights—long a precondition for Syria agreeing to peace with its neighbor.

An article published last month in Qatari newspaper Al-Watan insinuated that Turkey has been involved in backroom talks with Syria on the issue for at least a year, however.

Turkish Ambassador to Washington Nabi Sensoy said, “We will be glad to help with any international problems, including the ones in the Middle East.”

After the first day of talks, Israel remains steadfast that Syria renounce its ties with Hamas, a militant group considered terrorists by Israel and the United States. “We want peace with the Syrians, and they know what we expect from them,” said a spokesperson for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

Turkey traditionally has maintained friendly relations with both Israel and Syria. Turkey is one of the few countries in the region that admits visitors traveling on Israeli passports, and it shares a border with the latter.

Yet Islamism and ultranationalism have characterized much of Turkish politics over the past five years, coloring policy toward Israel. Two AKP-affiliated Turkish officials declined to meet with Pinhas Avivi, former Israeli ambassador to Turkey, and Avivi says that Erdogan’s Islamist-leaning Justice and Development Party (AKP) “does not love” Israel, although high-level visits have helped smooth over ties. On the ground, conspiracy theories involving purported Israeli desires to take over Turkish territory have carried some popular weight.

Headline Link: ‘Israel Opens Peace Talks with Syria’

Video: ‘Diplomatic Officials: Syria Must Cut Terror Ties’

Background: Turkey and its Israel policy

Reactions: ‘Assad Says “Ready to Cooperate” in Turkish Israel-Syria Peace Bid’

Historical Context: The Israel–Syria conflict

The Six-Day War, 1967

Related Topic: ‘Israeli Prime Minister Will Resign if Charged with Bribery’


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