Turkish Mediation in Syria Talks a Mistake, says Israeli Official

JERUSALEM (Hurriyet)–Having Turkey mediate peace talks between Israel and Syria was a mistake that harmed relations between Ankara and Israel, a senior Israeli official said.

Israel’s once strong ties with Turkey have become strained since the government in Ankara launched an unprecedented barrage of criticism on Israel over its deadly offensive on Gaza. Outrage over the offensive also scuttled Israel’s Turkish-mediated indirect talks with Syria.

“Looking back we can say that the Turkish mediation was a mistake that affected the relations between the countries,” Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said Tuesday. “So, there is a need to separate between our bilateral and multilateral relations,” the AFP quoted him as saying.

However, he added that Israel-Turkey relations remained strong, because “that is in the interest of both sides.”

Ayalon blamed Syria for the collapse of the negotiations, saying that Syria was not interested in peace, and instead is using the talks as an avenue to improve relations with the West. “Today before any negotiations can start, the burden falls on Syria to prove it wants peace and not war,” Ayalon said.

Relations between Turkey and Israel have been tense since October, when Turkey excluded Israel from joint military drills and said ties would continue to suffer unless Israel ended “the humanitarian tragedy” in Gaza and revived peace talks with the Palestinians.

Syria insists that Ankara resume the mediation process between both sides, despite Israel’s desire to get France involved. Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Makdad said, “During the indirect talks under Turkish mediation, Syria has stressed the need for a retreat to the border lines of June 4, 1967 and an end to the Israeli occupation.”

However, Ayalon said that Syria didn’t desire peace, and through these negotiations it fooled everyone in a bid to emerge from the global isolation. According to Ayalon, the burden of proof is now on Syria. “It must prove that is desires peace, not war,” he said.

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