Ahmadinejad's Turkey trip irks Israel

Senior diplomatic official to 'Post': We don't think it's a good idea, and that was passed on to the Turks.

ahmadinejad waves 224 88 (photo credit: AP [file])
ahmadinejad waves 224 88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Israel has relayed to Turkey its reservations about Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's scheduled "working visit" to Turkey on Wednesday, The Jerusalem Post has learned. "We do not think this is a good idea," one senior diplomatic official said, adding that this message was passed on to Ankara through the "regular diplomatic channels." Because of Iran's relative isolation, Ahmadinejad is unwelcome in many capitals around the world, and on a recent visit to Rome for a UN-sponsored meeting, no Italian officials agreed to meet him. "We don't think it is a good idea to give legitimacy to someone who calls for the destruction of Israel," the official said of the upcoming visit to Turkey. The official said that the Turks explained that since they are Iran's neighbors, they needed to have relations with Teheran, and that they could help facilitate negotiations over the nuclear issue. This will be Ahmadinejad's first visit to Turkey, and Turkish sources described it as a "working visit," rather than a formal state one. Ahmadinejad will spend the day in Istanbul, where he is scheduled to meet Turkish President Abdullah Gul. By going to Istanbul, and not Ankara, the issue of whether the extreme Islamist Ahmadinejad would lay a wreath at the mausoleum of the ardently secular father of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, was averted. While Gul, a member of the Islamic rooted AKP party, will meet Ahmadinejad, the former Turkish President - Ahmet Necdet Sezer - would not invite him. Gul became the country's president last year. Turkish sources and the Turkish media said that the purpose of the visit would be to discuss Iran-Turkish bilateral ties, as well as Iran's nuclear program. Meanwhile, Ahmad Noorani, in charge of economic affairs at the Iranian Embassy in Ankara, said that the two countries would probably sign a natural gas deal during the visit. Turkish officials have yet to confirm the deal. Noorani said the two countries agreed in May on the construction of a new gas pipeline to ensure a steady flow to Turkey, which suffers frequent cuts in gas from Iran during wintertime Turkey has sought ways to increase cooperation with Iran, especially in the field of energy. Last year, the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding to build a gas pipeline to transport up to 40 billion cubic meters of gas to Europe per year through a US-backed pipeline that would stretch from Turkey to Austria. But US officials have since expressed strong opposition to the possibility of bringing Iranian gas to Europe via NATO-ally Turkey. The final agreement between Turkey and Iran has yet to be signed. The new agreement would be about another pipeline that would bring gas to Turkey for domestic consumption. Iran would pay for its construction, which is expected to cost around $930 million, Noorani said. One Turkish official said that Turkey is bound by the UN Security Council sanctions against Iran, and would not do anything that ran counter to those sanctions. He said that the deals that have been in the works for years are permitted under the current sanction regime. Israeli officials, meanwhile, said that Turkey has been abiding by the sanctions that the UN has imposed on Iran. AP contributed to this report.