'Iran asked Turkey to mediate with US'

Erdogan tells 'Guardian' Teheran made request when Bush in office; urges Bibi to "accept Palestine."

erdogan hands up 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
erdogan hands up 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
Iran asked Turkey to help resolve the Islamic republic's dispute with the US, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was quoted by the Guardian as saying Tuesday. Erdogan told the British newspaper that Iranian officials made the request while George Bush was in office, and that he relayed the message to the White House at the time. The Turkish Prime Minister said he might bring up the subject with US President Barack Obama. "Iran does want Turkey to play such a [mediating] role. And if the United States also wants and asks us to play this role, we are ready to do this," he told the Guardian. "They [the Iranians] said to us that if something like this [an opportunity for rapprochement] would happen, they want Turkey to play a role. These were words that were said openly. But I have told this to President Bush myself." Erdogan also renewed his criticism of the IDF's recent operation in Gaza and said Prime Minister-designate Binyamin Netanyahu must recognize Palestinians' right to have their own state. He compared Hamas's failure to recognize Israel to Netanyahu's refusal to support a Palestinian state. "We are always telling them [Hamas) to act differently, that we are for a two-state solution: Palestine and Israel," he said. "They have to accept this, but Israel also has to accept Palestine. "Is Israel right now accepting Palestine? They are still not accepting them. But it is being expected of the Palestinian people to accept Israel. Now go and ask Mr Netanyahu if he is accepting Palestine." Erdogan said an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal had to include Hamas, which he called the party of "change and reform," and said the IDF's Operation Cast Lead was disproportionate. "Hamas doesn't have any planes. Hamas doesn't have any tanks or artillery, and with the use of disproportionate force Gaza was being put under fire," he said. "One thousand, one hundred and 30 people have died. We have more than 5,500 injured. Who is going to ask: what has happened here and who is going to pay the price for this?" Referring to his row with Shimon Peres at the recent World Economic Forum in Davos, which culminated in Erdogan storming off the stage, the Turklsh prime minister said the move stemmed from his desire to "be the voice of the voiceless and the protector of the people who cannot protect themselves." Erdogan dismissed fears that the US pro-Israel lobby would retaliate by lifting its opposition to a congressional resolution recognizing the Armenian genocide claims. During last year's US presidential election campaign, Obama and his vice-president, Joe Biden, voiced support for the resolution. "I believe the United States feels and knows the importance of Turkey within the region more than some people who do not understand this," he said. "The so-called Armenian genocide is not an issue that can affect Turkey-American relations in a very strong way. I don't believe the US Congress would take a decision based on emotions. It should be left to historians."