Turkey sends envoy to Syria to solve Gaza standoff

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Monday he had sent an envoy for talks with Syrian President Bashar Assad to try and solve the standoff in the Middle East over a captured Israeli soldier. "We are working for a solution to the problems in the Middle East through diplomacy," Erdogan told reporters. "We are trying to see what Turkey, Israel, Palestinians and Syria can do for a solution." Erdogan did not name the envoy or give details on his meetings in Syria. The soldier, Gilad Shalit, was seized June 25 by Palestinians affiliated with the ruling Hamas party. His captors are presumed to take orders from hard-line Hamas leaders based in the Syrian capital, Damascus. Turkey, a predominantly Muslim country that has long been close with Israel, sees itself as a mediator in the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. It has however, strongly criticized the Jewish state for its military offensive in Gaza, calling it a disproportionate response to the capture of the soldier.