TEL AVIV (Agence France Presse)–Israeli President Shimon Peres phoned Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday to assure him of Israel’s desire to maintain close ties with its Muslim ally, an aide to Erdogan said.
The call followed a decision on Tuesday by a the Anti-Defamation League to term as genocide the mass killing of Armenia’s under the Ottoman Empire, a label Ankara fiercely rejects.
"Peres emphasized the importance Israel places on relations with Turkey," Erdogan’s aide told AFP. "It was a very fruitful discussion."
On Wednesday, the Israeli embassy in Ankara said the Jewish state acknowledges the "horrible events" and the "terrible suffering" the Armenia’s endured, but urged Jews not to take sides.
"Over the years the subject, undesirably, has become a loaded political issue between the Armenia’s and the Turks. Israel, therefore, asks that neither one side nor the other be taken and that no definitions be made of what happened. We hope that both sides will enter into an open dialogue which will enable them to heal the wounds," it said.
Turkey has been Israel’s main regional ally since 1996 when the two signed a military cooperation deal, much to the anger of Arab countries and Iran. But the U.S.-led war in Iraq and Israel’s relations with the Palestinians have led to a rise in anti-U.S. and anti-Israeli sentiment in the Turkish public opinion. Erdogan’s Islamist-rooted government also angered Israel in 2006 when it hosted Hamas officials in Ankara in what it defended as a bid to convince the radical Islamist group to renounce violence.