Turkey PM says Israel to blame for deadlock in Mideast peace talks 21Dec10 December 22, 2010

Haaretz -  21 December 2010

Turkey’s prime minister on Tuesday blamed Israeli “intransigence” for the deadlock in Mideast peace talks and called on the international community to work toward breaking the impasse.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan was addressing reporters in a joint news conference with Prime Minister Naji al-Otari of Syria after ministers from both countries held a meeting to build on already thriving cooperation.

“We are concerned that U.S. efforts to start direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians were left unsolved due to Israel’s intransigence,” Erdogan said. “Under these conditions, the international community and countries of the region must engage in more intense efforts for a peace opening.”

U.S. officials said earlier this month that they had abandoned efforts to get Israel to reinstate a settlement construction freeze in the West Bank, concluding that was not the best way to restart the talks. The Palestinians have said they would not resume negotiations without a settlement construction freeze.

Earlier on Tuesday, ministers from Turkey and Syria signed several cooperation agreements, including one to combat terrorism, and al-Otari pledged continued support for Turkey in its fight against Kurdish rebels, some of whom are based across the border on Syrian territory.

Tensions between Turkey and Syria ran high in the 1980s and 1990s when Turkey accused Syria of sheltering autonomy-seeking Kurdish rebels, which Turkey considers to be terrorists.

Syria expelled Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan in 1998 and those ties grew stronger as Turkey reached out to neighboring countries to build economic ties.

Turkey and Syria lifted travel visas earlier this year and the two countries’ militaries staged joint exercises.

Erdogan said he hoped the close ministerial-level co-operation between Turkey and Syria, and a similar one between Turkey and Iraq would expand to other countries in the Middle East.

“Our final goal is for the peace and friendship to expand to the whole region wave by wave,” Erdogan said.

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