Barak holds talks with Turkish FM in 'friendly atmosphere'

Defense minister, delegation hope to mend ties with Ankara on visit.

By
January 17, 2010 19:17
2 minute read.
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Planting top2. (photo credit: KKL)

 
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Defense Minister Ehud Barak met Turkey's foreign and defense ministers on Sunday to try to repair ties between the allies that were further strained last week by a diplomatic row in which Israel was forced to apologize for its treatment of the Turkish ambassador.

Barak and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu held a three-and-a-half-hour meeting, which an Israeli official said was conducted in a "very friendly atmosphere." The official, traveling with Barak, spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

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The defense minister later met with his Turkish counterpart, Vecdi Gonul.

The two were expected to announce the finalization a long-delayed multimillion dollar deal for the delivery of 10 unmanned aerial vehicles to Turkey.

Barak is the first Israeli official to visit Turkey since the diplomatic feud that erupted Monday after Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon summoned Turkish Ambassador Ahmet Oguz Celikkol to complain about an anti-Israeli TV show. The ambassador was forced to sit on a low sofa without a handshake, while Ayalon explained to local TV stations that the humiliation was intentional. Outraged, Turkey threatened to recall the ambassador, forcing Ayalon to apologize.

The quarrel was the latest in a series of disputes between allies who had built strong military and economic ties over the past 15 years.

The visit was scheduled before the row, but is being closely watched for efforts to control the damage to the relationship that has also been hurt by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's frequent outbursts of fury over what he considers Israel's aggressive treatment of Palestinians.

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Hours before Barak's departure, Ayalon said the Turkish ambassador could be expelled if Turkish TV dramas continue to depict Israeli security forces as brutal. Ayalon had called in the ambassador to reprimand him over a TV program that showed Israeli agents kidnapping children and shooting old men. It was the second such program to be aired on Turkish television in recent months.

Turkish newspapers reacted harshly to Ayalon's latest comment. "Ayalon is talking nonsense again," the daily Milliyet and Yeni Safak newspapers said Sunday. The daily Radikal said in a banner headline: "Second episode in diplomatic shame."

Upon his arrival in Turkey, Barak was greeted warmly at the airport by a Turkish admiral. His first stop was at the mausoleum of modern and secular Turkey's founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, whom Barak praised as an inspiration in making the region "one of peace and security."

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