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Photo by: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post
Peretz meets his Turkish counterpart for highest level Turkish-Israeli meeting in 3 years
By HERB KEINON
05/12/2013
Environmental protection minister tells conference in Istanbul he hopes Israel, Turkey can bridge gaps soon.
 
Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz met in Istanbul Thursday with his Turkish counterpart, the first time ministers of the two countries have met since the Mavi Marmara incident in May 2010.

Peretz met with Turkish Environment and Urbanization Minister Erdogan Bayraktar for some 40 minutes on the sidelines of a UN-sponsored conference about Mediterranean marine and coastal environment issues.

A spokesman for Peretz said the meeting was “very friendly.”

Diplomatic officials, however, were hesitant about saying whether this signaled a significant thawing in the frozen ties between the two countries, with one official saying only that “our position remains that we want to see a better relationship with Turkey.”

Peretz’s trip to Turkey was, like all ministerial trips abroad, approved by the cabinet and therefore had the approval of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

Ankara, which once had a strategic relationship with Israel, withdrew its ambassador from Tel Aviv after the Mavi Marmara incident when nine Turks were killed aboard a ship stopped by the IDF that was trying to break the naval blockade of Gaza. The IDF soldiers were met by violent resistance when they boarded the ship.

In 2011 Turkey expelled Israel’s ambassador.

Before meeting Bayraktar, Peretz – from Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua Party – addressed the conference and said he hoped that in the near future it would be possible to bridge the gaps between Israel and Turkey, saying that both Turkish and Israeli citizens wanted that to happen.

Peretz said during his address that he believed in a two-state solution, and that a way must be found to “break down walls and strengthen the ties between us and our neighbors.”

The former defense minister said he hoped that the agreement reached between the world powers and Iran in Geneva would not have a negative impact on the Israeli- Palestinian talks.

“The next five months are critical,” he said, referring to the deadline set for both the Palestinian-Israel talks as well as for reaching a comprehensive deal on Iran.
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