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(photo credit: AP [file[)
One would think there would be a single answer coming out of Jerusalem regarding whom Israel preferred to mediate future indirect talks with Syria - France or Turkey.
But one would be mistaken.
Within the span of 18 hours on Sunday and Monday, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu gave diametrically different answers to the question of whether Israel preferred French or Turkish mediation.
Ayalon met Sunday with a delegation of leading journalists and academics brought over by the American Jewish Committee, and said - according to a statement he released - "relations between the two nations were back on track and as good as ever despite the recent harsh rhetoric."
Israel's ties with Turkey, which mediated indirect talks with Syria in 2008, nosedived following extremely harsh criticism over the last year coming from Ankara.
Ayalon called on the Syrians to meet Israel face to face and without third party mediation.
"We appreciate Turkish efforts and the previous talks did not fail because of Turkey, but rather because of Syrian intransigence," he said.
"However, if in the future we make progress with the Syrians and we will seek assistance from a third party, Turkey will be the first nation we will turn to," he said.
So there it is, Israel prefers Turkey â€¦or not.
Netanyahu, whose word carries a bit more weight in this matter than Ayalon's, met the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday and made clear that he preferred the French connection. He said he told French President Nicolas Sarkozy as much when he met him in Paris last month.
"I spoke to Sarkozy, who told me that Turkey's position was a withdrawal to the 1967 lines," Netanyahu said. "Sarkozy also spoke about the Turkish mediation, which the Syrians were suggesting.
"I replied that we are interested in direct negotiations, and that if we were already discussing a mediator, I would prefer them [the French]."
So who is it, Turkey or France?
Ayalon, asked by The Jerusalem Post to explain the contradictory comments on Monday, said "First of all we want to emphasize that there is no substitute for direct talks. There could be a point where we need assistance, and we could try to bring in any number of countries: Turkey, France or the US. It all depends on the circumstances at the time."
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