Turkey assembles team to examine Mughrabi Gate site

Inspectors due to arrive next week; team to include "technical experts."

mughrabi dig 298.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
mughrabi dig 298.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Ankara is in the process of putting together its technical team to inspect excavations at the Mughrabi Gate, with the inspectors expected to arrive some time next week, Turkish diplomatic officials said Monday. According to the officials, the team will most likely be composed of "two or three" technical experts - perhaps an architect, construction engineer and historian - who will look at the work there and express an opinion on whether it poses any danger to the site. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed his interest in sending a team when he met in Ankara with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert 12 days ago. Olmert welcomed the idea, saying Israel had "nothing to hide." But differences of opinion emerged almost immediately regarding the makeup of the team, with Israeli officials saying it would be made up of advisers from the Turkish Embassy in Tel Aviv, and the Turks saying it would be a team of experts from Ankara. Olmert addressed the issue at a press conference last week, saying that at his meeting with Erdogan it was agreed - after Erdogan expressed concern about the work at the Mughrabi Gate - that Turkey would send one or two representatives to check it out. Olmert stressed that this was not an inspection committee. "There is no inspection committee, there will not be any inspection committee, there is no need for any inspection committee," he said. "But we always welcome everyone that wants to come and look around and see everything. And I believe that after such a visit will take place by the Turks or by others, they will report to the prime minister of Turkey, and he will do precisely what he said he wants to do, which is to say that everything is all right." The Turkish diplomatic official said the names of which experts to send were still under review in Ankara, and the Turkish government was trying to "find the right people" with the necessary amount of expertise. The official said the purpose of the delegation would be to report to Erdogan whether the work posed any danger to the mosques on the Temple Mount.