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Sunday, April 07, 2013

'Talks with Turkey no substitute for direct talks'

International Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz is dismissing reports that US Secretary of State John FN Kerry will propose to Turkey that it play a role in talks between Israel and the 'Palestinians.' Steinitz says that there is no substitute for direct talks between the two parties.
Steinitz was responding to reports in the Turkish media that during US Secretary of State John Kerry's visit to Istanbul - his second trip to Turkey in two months- he will offer the country a role in the Middle East diplomatic process.
Steinitz said he did not believe the reports to be true and stressed that there is no substitute for direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Moreover, he added that the Quartet on the Middle East closely follows issues surrounding the conflict.


State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said at a press briefing last week that Kerry would meet Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and discuss the “complex issues surrounding Middle East peace.”
In the past, she said, they have discussed Fatah-Hamas reconciliation, “and our insistence that Quartet principles need to be abided by if this is going to serve the cause of peace.”
While not directly referring to Erdogan’s announced intention to visit the Gaza Strip this month, Nuland said that in the past the US has urged senior Turkish officials that any contact with Hamas be “in service to the greater issue of stability and peace, and that the fundamental underlying tenets of the Quartet principles be reiterated as the necessary precondition.” The Quartet principles are that Hamas recognize Israel, forswear terrorism and accept previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements.
The prospect of Erdogan indeed going ahead with a trip to Gaza, which he has threatened to do a number of times in the past, seemed to fade somewhat with the announcement that he will be meeting US President Barack Obama in the White House on May 16. The US has in the past urged Erdogan to refrain from making that trip, arguing it would undercut Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and strengthen Hamas.
Asked whether Turkey could play a role in the Israeli-Palestinian diplomatic process, something Ankara has expressed an interest in doing, Nuland said Turkey certainly “has significant influence with the Palestinians. It has the ability to encourage Palestinians of all stripes to accept Quartet principles and move forward on that basis.”
Given Turkey's behavior for the last four and a half years, they have zero credibility as a mediator. Kerry may try to install them as one, but that should meet with a lot of pushback from the Israeli government.

What could go wrong?

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