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(photo credit: AP)
"Turkey instills trust, Iran instills fear," said President Shimon Peres in an address to Turkey's parliament on Tuesday, becoming the first Israeli president to speak before the legislature of a Muslim country.
Peres expressed optimism that the upcoming peace conference set for Annapolis in late November would help thaw decades of conflict with the Palestinians.
"We may be saying different prayers but our eyes are turned toward the same sky and toward the same vision for the Middle East," said Peres, to an audience that included Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas as well as Turkish Prime Minister Abdullah Gul.
He called the Annapolis conference "a historic opportunity" that should not be missed.
"Israel is determined to end this conflict. Peace is in the interest of Israel," he said. "A democratic Israel and an independent, prosperous and democratic Palestinian state will help end terrorism."
Peres also expressed support for creating an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel.
"We are determined to reach a two-state solution for the sake of the two peoples," he said.
Peres expressed Israel's gratitude to the people in Turkey who opened their doors to Jews when they were expelled from Spain in 1492.
Turkish Sultan Beyazid II accepted Jews into the Ottoman Empire, the predecessor of modern Turkey, after they were expelled from Spain.
"Here, they found a home of tolerance where they could freely practice their religion," Peres said in his speech, given in Hebrew and translated into Turkish. "I came here to express my gratitude to Turkey."
Turkey also aided Jews fleeing the Holocaust, including Turkish Jews abroad.
"I came here to listen, not only to be heard. To exchange views in order to advance the efforts to reach a peace deal between us and the Palestinians and to assess the chances of peace in the entire region, from Syria to Yemen," continued. the president.
Peres added that Turkey was ready to contribute "to liberate the Gaza Strip from the threat of terror and rocket attacks, to return the kidnapped Israelis and to enable a million and a half Palestinians to live a normal life."
"If the rockets are destroyed and the captives are returned, Gaza and its residents will know calm," he added.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas also made a speech to the 550-seat parliament, becoming the first Palestinian president to speak there, and thanked Turkey for supporting the Palestinian cause.
In his address to the parliament, Abbas said the occupation "does not bind with any religious or humanitarian views" and did not contribute to an atmosphere of trust.
He said he backed the US peace efforts.
"If this opportunity is undermined, the results could be dangerous. ... We are extending our hands for dialogue, said Abbas, adding: "our sincere wish is for this meeting to definitely reach success."
Abbas said, however, that any solution should also include Lebanon and the Golan Heights.
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