The Jerusalem Post
December 20, 2010 - 1:00am

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday that while there were recently high level talks between the Turkish Foreign Ministry and Israel in Geneva, there were no changes in Turkish demands regarding the "Israeli aggression against the humanitarian aid ships in Gaza" and the "murder" of nine Turkish citizens, Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) reported.

The statements came as part of an interview to SANA in which Erdogan discussed the Ankara-Damascus relationship, tensions between Turkey and Israel, the Israeli-Palestinian and the Israeli-Syrian peace talks, and on Turkish aspirations to lead the way in "achieving peace and stability in the Middle East."

On the growing tensions between Turkey and Israel, Erdogan told SANA that the return of relations with Israel to their normal state is linked to Israel "apologizing to the Turkish republic and paying compensations."

Erdogan also criticized the US and EU for their stance at the Human Rights Council regarding the Flotilla saying, "we expressed our utmost regret over this stance… we expected a different stance from these countries that claim to be pioneers of basic freedom and defend human rights, seeking to appear as the only one struggling for these values and rights."

The Turkish prime minister also blamed Israel for the recent failure in peace talks explaining that Israel's actions caused "suspicion" regarding its desire for achieving peace.

As for a possible Syria-Israel peace treaty, Erdogan claims Syria wants to return to negotiations through a Turkish mediator.

On Syrian-Turkish relations, Erdogan told SANA that the Syrian-Turkish High-level Strategic Cooperation Council was successful in laying a solid structure that helped strengthen bilateral relations and support the two countries' economies.

"The council has turned into a practical and serious nucleus for a broader regional cooperation that seriously and effectively helps achieve peace, stability and prosperity for our peoples, who have to fully realize that the region is their own."

''The rapid and vigorous development of the Syrian-Turkish relations is attributed to our peoples' aspirations and their demands of us as political leaderships, based on historical and social backgrounds, as well as the strong political will of both sides,'' Erdogan said.

The Turkish prime minister affirmed that he is in constant contant with the Syrian president, praising "the long-term strategic vision of [Syrian] President Bashar Assad, which we share with him, has played an important role in this rapid development.''

Erdogan went on to say, ''What we seek is to remove all the obstacles that have been standing over the Cold War years between our peoples, who have lived as brothers over decades, in order to put history on the right path for further developing relations that would help achieve a future of prosperity for our peoples,'' reported SANA.

Erdogan's vision however also extends to the rest of the region saying "what Turkey seeks is achieving peace and stability in the Middle East due to its belief that the region's peoples won't reach respectable living and prosperity except through this road."

To that end the Turkish prime minister underlined the quartet cooperation project between Syria, Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, explaining that progress of this example will achieve peace, stability and prosperity in the region.

Erdogan said that the cooperation between these four countries stems from historical and cultural ties between our peoples.

The Turkish prime minister explained that the goal of strategic cooperation on the practical level is to cancel visas and establish a free trade zone on the basis of unified agreements and dealings, noting that in this framework, Turkey signed free trade agreements and canceled entry visas with Syria, Jordan and Lebanon.

He added that ministers from the four countries specializing in the fields of commerce, energy, transport and tourism convene constantly to discuss means for achieving more joint cooperation, SANA reported.

This cooperative comes perhaps as a response to the problems facing Turkey's bid for EU membership with Erdogan criticizing EU countries saying, "Turkey assumes its responsibilities and fulfils its duties in the issue of EU membership talks, but these talks aren't going as fast as they should due to obstacles placed by some member countries."


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