Peres and Abbas to address Turkish Parliament next week

Olmert: No Israeli president has ever before addressed a Muslim parliament.

peres 88 (photo credit: )
peres 88
(photo credit: )
President Shimon Peres and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas have been invited to address the Turkish Parliament next week during their visits to Turkey as official guests of President Abdullah Gul. Peres made the announcement on Tuesday at a joint press conference with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert after the two met for a working session. Olmert said no Israeli president had ever before addressed a Muslim parliament. The invitation to Peres to visit Turkey is of great significance, he said, and the invitation to speak in the parliament "is an extraordinary event." Both Olmert and Peres emphasized the good relations that exist between Turkey and Israel. Turkey could be an important facilitator in enabling Israel to have good relations with other Muslim countries, they said. Peres said Turkey could "play a first-tier role in the peace process," adding that the country's moderate and democratic nature served as a counterweight to the extremist Islam embodied by Iran. "If the Turkish way wins, all of us win - Muslims and Jews, Arabs and Israelis," Peres said. The two presidents will address the parliament in Ankara on November 12, said Peres spokeswoman Ayelet Frisch. Citing Peres's statesmanship and popularity abroad, Olmert said he was sure Peres would be received with great excitement in Turkey and that he would convey Israel's message in a powerful manner. Asked by a reporter whether he would raise the issue of the kidnapped IDF soldiers while in Turkey, Peres replied that there was no visit abroad by Israeli officials in which the matter was not raised. In addition to the positive ties Israel enjoys with Turkey today, Peres said, it should not be forgotten that Turkey provided a haven for Jews fleeing from the Spanish Inquisition more than 500 years ago. He said he was convinced that Turkey could also play "a very important role" politically and economically in creating a climate for peace in the Middle East. Peres said he felt "very optimistic" about the upcoming Annapolis summit, especially after speaking to Arab leaders. "I feel that they are also optimistic," he said, adding that America's involvement aided both sides. Turkey's influence exceeds its borders, Peres said, and the Turkish school of thought could lead to peace. Olmert said he expected the Annapolis meeting to take place at the end of the month, but could not name a specific date because the date had not yet been determined by the Americans. If Israel succeeds in its negotiations with the Palestinians, he said, it will be beneficial to future negotiations with the Syrians. Nabil Abu Rudaineh, an aide to Abbas, said the visit to Turkey was "part of the Palestinian relationship with friendly countries to coordinate positions and gain support, particularly before the Annapolis conference." In September, Turkey demanded an apology from Israel after it said IAF jets crossed into Turkish airspace and jettisoned fuel tanks during a raid on a military target in Syria. Israel hasn't officially confirmed the raid, but Olmert offered an ambiguous apology last week, saying, "If Israeli planes indeed penetrated Turkish airspace," Israel regretted any harm that "might have been caused." In an interview published Tuesday in Ma'ariv, Gul said, "We regard the matter as closed and hope it won't recur." AP contributed to this report.