Peres, Gul restoring 'friendly' ties

Peres meeting Turkish co

In a further sign of Jerusalem-Ankara tensions coming to an end, President Shimon Peres met on Friday afternoon with his Turkish counterpart, President Abdullah Gul, and two agreed that the former "friendly and stable" ties between the two countries would be restored. During the meeting on the sidelines of the UN climate conference in Copenhagen, Gul accepted Peres's invitation to visit Israel sometime in the future. Peres told Gul that "Israel seeks real, just peace with its neighbors and has announced its willingness to go to great lengths to achieve peace." The president went on to stress that "Israel does not want Palestinians in Gaza to suffer. "Gaza could have turned into a prosperous area under [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas]. Unfortunately, Hamas murdered Fatah leaders in Gaza and is now gravely harming the Palestinian population," Peres said. "If Hamas changes course by recognizing Israel and denouncing terror, the face of Gaza will undergo an extreme change." Tensions between the two countries have grown since the IDF's Operation Cast Lead in Gaza last winter. Yet, in an apparent sign that both countries are interested in tamping down the tensions, Defense Minister Ehud Barak announced Thursday that he had accepted an invitation to visit Turkey in January. Barak's announcement came just two months after Turkey prevented Israeli involvement in a military maneuver, and just a week after Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned that Ankara's reaction would resemble an "earthquake" if Israel violated Turkish airspace to conduct reconnaissance on Iran. Barak received the invitation from Turkey's envoy to Israel, Ahmet Oguz Çelikkol, during a meeting at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv. Çelikkol conveyed the invitation on behalf of Turkish Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul. Barak, who last visited Ankara in June 2008, accepted the invitation, saying that Israel's relations with Turkey were of "strategic importance." Herb Keinon and Yaakov Katz contributed to this report