Turkey says cease-fire in the Middle East is close

Hürriyet Daily News
14 Ocak 2009 - 00:00Son Güncelleme : 13 Ocak 2009 - 19:10

ANKARA - Turkey’s negotiations may result in a cease-fire in Gaza, according to the prime minister, who says Israel is also expected to participate in the talks in Cairo. Diplomats are happy with the shuttle diplomacy conducted by Turkey

Negotiations between Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s adviser and Syria and Egypt over finding a cease-fire to the Gaza conflict were heading in good direction, according to the prime minister.

"Negotiations are underway not only in Egypt but also in SyriaÉ Israel is also expected to participate in the talks in CairoÉ I believe (the parties) will get closer to (a cease-fire) with Israeli involvement. That is the possibility," Erdoğan told reporters after visiting an Ankara hospital where Palestinians, injured as a result of the Gaza offensive, were being treated.

Turkey is moving ahead with its shuttle diplomacy with Professor Ahmet Davutoğlu, accompanied by officials from the Turkish Foreign Ministry, holding talks in Egypt over the weekend and then traveling to Syria for talks with Hamas. After wrapping up talks, the delegation returned to Cairo for further meetings.

Turkey warm to troop deployment
"The first results from the Turkish shuttle diplomacy are positive. The priority right now is a cease-fire," a Turkish diplomat told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review.

Turkey is playing a key role in the talks because Hamas Ğ due to tension with Egypt Ğcurrently has more confidence in Turkey than it does in Egypt, reported the London-based Arabic al-Hayat newspaper, citing diplomatic sources. According to sources, in the current talks Turkey is acting as a mediator between Egypt and Hamas, not between Hamas and Israel, it added.

Turkey yesterday repeated calls for the creation of an international monitoring mechanism to establish a cease-fire. "We have already shown our sensitivity over the deployment of international observers. This process can be continued with an international monitoring delegation," said Erdoğan yesterday.

The Turkish diplomat told the Daily News that if formed, the mechanism would involve not civilians but soldiers. The Al-Hayat newspaper reported that Hamas was warm to a Turkish force being deployed at the Rafah crossing on the Egyptian-Gaza border despite its earlier refusal of the presence of any international troops.

Hamas would only consent to the deployment of Turkish forces in the Strip if all of the crossings into Gaza were opened, said the paper.

Too early to talk on observers
"What we are focusing at the moment is establishing a truce. It is too early to speak about the formation or the tasks of international observers while fighting continues," said an Egyptian diplomatic source to the Daily News. "What we want first is to stop the fire and after that there could be negotiations about the tasks of international observers and which countries those forces could come from," he said.

In Ankara, Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larjani held talks with Erdoğan and President Abdullah Gül yesterday, ahead of an emergency meeting of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, or OIC, set for Wednesday.

"The main issue will be Gaza and the combination of Islamic countries’ aid to Palestinian people," said a diplomatic source. No statement was made to the press after the meetings. Tehran said it supported Turkey's Gaza plan, reported the Anatolia news agency. Hamid Rıza Hacıbabayi from Iran's parliament said Iran supported the Turkish plan that foresees a halt to the Israeli offensive and aid to the Palestinians. On Friday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will be in Turkey as part of a regional tour.

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