The European Union's foreign policy chief yesterday praised Turkey's efforts toward a peaceful solution to the Gaza crisis.
"I saw that Turkey and the EU were on the same wave and we are cooperating to make the plan on the table become reality," Javier Solana told a press conference in Ankara where he held "constructive" discussions with Turkish officials on ways to push for an immediate cease-fire.
He was referring to a plan French President Nicolas Sarkozy drew up for a truce between Israel and Hamas in the Middle East with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
Solana said Egyptian-brokered talks on a cease-fire proposal for Gaza presented "a bit of light in a very difficult process." He said a cease-fire would allow for the discussion of more important issues, such as the delivery of humanitarian aid and the opening of border crossings.
The EU official also reiterated the EU's willingness to send European monitors, previously at Gaza's border with Egypt, back to the crossing after a cease-fire in Gaza was achieved.
"We are willing to be part of the solution to the problem," he said.
In New York, Foreign Minister Ali Babacan also repeated the proposal of deploying an international monitory mission to the region.
End to the blocade and cease - fire
"In light of the publicly expressed views of the parties to the conflict, it is our understanding that the acceptability and viability of a cease-fire, as well as a sustainable end to the blockade, depends on an international commitment to guarantee it," he said in an address to the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday. Turkey's two-year stint at the council began this month.
He said the international community must act quickly and with a clear end in mind, warning that the risks of inaction would be enormous.
"Turkey, for its part, will continue its endeavors to help restore calm in the region so as to open the way for fully-fledged efforts toward a lasting and comprehensive peace," said Babacan. "We believe that the Security Council should also play a role in this regard and live up to its responsibilities under the U.N. Charter by helping bring this crisis to an end."
Turkey continues its active diplomatic efforts to contribute to a course of action for peace in the region. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan embarked on a tour of Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Saudi Arabia last week and spoke on the phone with many leaders, while Babacan attended an extraordinary meeting of the Organization of the Islamic Conference in Jeddah on Saturday and held telephone conversations with his counterparts including Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.
Blame for civilian losses
According to the online edition of Israel's Haaretz newspaper, Ankara rejected an offer from Livni several days ago to visit Turkey.
"If she does not want to talk about a cease-fire, she should not come," was the official response from Turkish officials, the report said.
İlan Tal, spokesperson for the Israeli Defense Forces, or IDF, said yesterday that Hamas was accountable for the civilian losses.
"We are under attack from Hamas. We are retaliating and our target is Hamas, not civilians. Civilians have been killed. This is the consequence of Hamas using civilians as human shields," he told Turkish reporters in a videoconference at the Israeli Embassy in Ankara.
The spokesman was responding to a question about civilian casualties during the Israeli military operation in Gaza.
"We are using the force in a way that will minimize damage and danger to civilians. We are trying to target only Hamas, and launch areas and ammunition facilities of Hamas," he said. "Hamas is targeting civilians, but we are targeting Hamas É Hamas does not value the human life of Israelis or Palestinians."
He said in an attempt to minimize the death toll, civilians were being warned through leaflets before assaults to evacuate areas that would be targeted.
He said the basic goal of the Israeli operation was to fundamentally change the security situation in southern Israel. "We are determined to continue until this basic target is achieved."
The spokesman said it was too early to comment on the rockets fired into Israel from Lebanon yesterday that sparked a new military alert and said it was only an isolated event.