Katsav and Sezer 298 ap.
(photo credit: AP)
Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer urged Israel on Wednesday to negotiate a peace settlement with the Palestinians, and offered his country's assistance in the process.
Since Turkey considered itself a friend of both sides, it has a "responsibility" to help them progress toward peace, Sezer said in an address in the Knesset.
"Turkey is willing to do whatever she can for her friend Israel in building a lasting peace with her neighbors," he said.
Turkey hoped that Israel and the Palestinian Authority would be able to work toward peace through the road map peace plan, Sezer said.
On Wednesday morning, Sezer reaffirmed his country's strong ties with Israel during a visit to Beit Hanassi.
Sezer, who arrived here on Tuesday for a three-day trip, began his trip by calling on President Moshe Katsav, said that Turkey's friendship with the Jewish people spans more than 500 years, and that its multi-faceted relationship with Israel is a continuation of the links that have been forged over centuries.
He was confident that the enduring ties between Turkey and Israel would serve as a paradigm for the rest of the region, and would in the final analysis be beneficial to all.
In welcoming Sezer, Katsav emphasized the depth and breadth of the ever-flourishing relationship between the two countries and declared that Sezer's visit was a significant contribution toward mutual understanding.
Katsav said that both Turkey and Israel were committed to continuing their efforts toward stability and peace in the Middle East.
"Everyone has the right to live free from the threat of terror," he said.
Sezer told Katsav that Turkey was unequivocally in accord with the Quartet with regard to Hamas in its demand of the organization to recognize Israel's right to exist, to renounce terror and to honor previous agreements.
In discussing the proposed referendum in the Palestinian Authority, Sezer said that the Palestinian people must decide whether they want to take the Hamas line or whether they want to ally themselves with PA President Mahmoud Abbas, who believes in negotiations with Israel.
The matter of an invitation that was extended by Turkey to Hamas representatives was also raised in the conversation. Sezer insisted that it was not an official invitation by the state, but by a party whose key motive was to try to influence Hamas to change its stance toward Israel.
On the Iranian issue, Sezer said that Turkey, like Europe, was opposed to Iran developing a nuclear capacity, and had joined forces with those organizations that were seeking to prevent Iran from advancing its nuclear projects.
Sezer met later Wednesday with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni before meeting Palestinian leaders on Thursday.
Sezer is due to return to Turkey on Thursday afternoon after visiting with Abbas. According to his spokesman, prior to his meeting with Abbas, he will take a private tour of Al-Aksa Mosque in Jerusalem, "but he will not pray there."
The spokesman also disclosed that plans were in the offing for Olmert to visit Turkey.
AP contributed to this report.