Erdogan to make surprise trip to Syria

Turkish press speculates that reviving Israel-Syria negotiations will top agenda of Wednesday's visit.

ASSAD ERDOGAN 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
(photo credit: AP)
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan will make a previously unscheduled trip to Syria on Wednesday, with the Turkish press speculating that reviving talks between Israel and Syria will be the most important item on the agenda. Erdogan, who was last in Syria in December, will be accompanied on his one-day visit by his foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu. Israeli officials had no comment on the visit. Sabah, a daily paper considered close to the Turkish government, speculated the visit had something to do with the recent visit to Damascus by Fred Hof, in charge of the Lebanese and Syrian portfolio inside the office of US Middle East envoy George Mitchell. Hof went to Damascus after holding talks in Israel last week with Defense Minister Ehud Barak, National Security Advisor Uzi Arad and Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon. Israeli-Syrian negotiations through Turkish mediation broke down last summer. In the interim, Israeli-Turkish relations took a nosedive because of Ankara's bitter criticism of Jerusalem during Operation Cast Lead, and while the two capitals are trying to repair the damage, the level of trust that had previously existed has not yet been regained. Israel told Hof that it was prepared to enter direct negotiations with Syria without any preconditions, but that it was impossible for Syria to talk of peace on the one hand, yet ally itself closely with Iran and support Hamas and Hizbullah on the other.