ROME (Hurriyet)–Unlike his predecessor, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu no longer trusts Turkey to mediate stalled peace talks with Syria, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, signaling how much relations have deteriorated between the regional allies in recent months.
“Former Israeli Prime Minister [Ehud] Olmert trusted Turkey, but Netanyahu doesn’t trust us. That’s his choice,” the Anatolia news agency quoted Erdogan as telling reporters at the World Summit on Food Security in Rome.
Israel’s hard-liner Prime Minister Netanyahu and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad met French President Nicolas Sarkozy separately last week, during which Israel said it was ready to resume peace talks without preconditions. The Turkish prime minister, however, doubts Assad will accept French mediation.
“Now France is trying to take up the role we had. I’m not sure what kind of stance Bashar Assad will take, but from what I’ve heard from him, they’re not going to accept something like this,” Erdogan said. After meeting with Sarkozy, Assad said he was not willing to hold face-to-face negotiations with the Israeli leader and called instead for lower-level dialog under Turkish mediation.
Erdogan also remarked on the fact that earlier efforts by Turkey to mediate between Israel and Syria, including negotiations concerning Israeli withdrawal from Golan Heights, had been interrupted by Israel’s attack on Gaza.
Last year, Syria and Israel held four rounds of indirect peace talks mediated by Turkey without making headway. Negotiations were broken off last year during Israel’s offensive in Gaza, closing a promising diplomatic channel towards a broader Middle East settlement. The Ankara government has repeatedly voiced its willingness to re-launch stalled negotiations, but Turkey’s worsened ties with Israel have clouded its role as a regional broker.