Ma'an News Agency
June 24, 2011 - 12:00am

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- PLO official Saeb Erekat said Friday that Turkey had pledged to enlist more nations to recognize Palestine as an independent state at the UN in September.

Speaking with Ma'an from Turkey, where he is with President Mahmoud Abbas for meetings with the Turkish leadership, Erekat said they had a made a number of requests of Turkey which were all agreed, without giving further details.

But he did tell Ma'an, "Turkey will help us in getting more of the nations to recognize the Palestinian state," saying that the country was "fully ready" to support the Palestinian statehood bid.

Erekat emphasized Turkey's role at the Organization of the Islamic Conference summit starting Tuesday, saying it would be a forum where "messages will be sent to all countries across the world to recognize the Palestinian state."

The former negotiator also commented on reports that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had agreed to peace talks based on the 1967 borders, saying "I should hear this from Netanyahu personally."

He said reports in the Israeli press that the Palestinian Authority was considering accepting a partial settlement freeze are "a lie," reiterating the public stance that no less than a full freeze on Israeli building in illegal settlements, and acceptance of the 1967 borders, were the preconditions for talks.

Hamas leader in exile Khalid Mash'al also traveled to Turkey this week, though officials there have refused to comment on whether or not he and the President are scheduled to meet. The leaders were scheduled to meet in Cairo on Tuesday to announce a new unity government as part of the reconciliation deal between their parties, which was canceled amid reports of disagreement over the prime ministerial post.

Meanwhile Israel's deputy foreign minister Danny Ayalon said there was an opportunity for Tel Aviv and Ankara to mend strained relations in an interview published Friday in Turkey's Hurriyet newspaper.

"The Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Hamas terror was added to our relations... Why should we subordinate our relations to a third party?" Ayalon said.

He added however that Israel recognized Turkey as a "regional power" and would be happy if it could cajole Hamas into a peace deal with Israel and reconcile Hamas with Fatah.

The announcement of Palestinian reconciliation in April caused a firestorm in Israel, and Netanyahu said Abbas "must choose between peace with Israel or peace with Hamas."

But Ayalon said Palestinian unity was in Israel's interests.

"That way we will know who to engage with. We would kiss the hands of each and every Turk if Hamas said they accept the Oslo [Treaty], condemn terror and recognize Israel," Ayalon said.

Ayalon refused to either confirm or deny media reports of secret fence-mending talks with Turkey.


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