Friday, October 30, 2009

Minister Ben-Eliezer to Turkish envoy: We must look ahead

Amid strained relations, Israeli government officials, IDF officers invited to celebrate Turkey's Independence Day at home of Turkish ambassador. 'Our partnership is based on similar democratic values,' trade minister says. Armenian nationals protest outside

Roni Sofer

Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer attended a ceremony held Thursday evening at the home of Turkey's ambassador to Israel Ahmet Oguz Celikkol in celebration of the 86th anniversary of the establishment of the Turkish Republic. "The relationship between nations is not the same as one between individuals. Israel must look ahead with the understanding that its relationship with Turkey will continue," the minister said during the event, which was attended by hundreds of people, including government officials, IDF officers, prominent members of the business community and members of the academia.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman was conspicuously absent from the event, in another sign of the strained relations between Ankara and Jerusalem.

The current crisis erupted after Turkey called of a NATO military exercise due to Israel's participation. Initially, Turkey said the reason was not political. But its foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, later linked the cancellation to Israel's war in the Gaza Strip last December and January.

The diplomatic row deteriorated further when state-run Turkish TV station aired a drama series which depicted IDF soldiers as blood-thirsty murderers who intentionally shoot children.

Ambassador Celikkol told those on hand that Turkey was more than willing to bolster ties. "The relations between Turley and Israel are of the utmost importance, and they are based on special and solid foundations," he said.

Ben-Eliezer added, "We have a strategic partnership and must make every effort to get our friendship back on track. Our relations with Turkey, a founding member of NATO, a regional superpower and possibly a future member of the European are very important.

"Our partnership is based on similar democratic values, economic cooperation, research and development and political dialogue," said the minister.

Addressing the 14th anniversary of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin's assassination and Turkey's role in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Ben-Eliezer said, "Rabin believed wholeheartedly that the differences between the nations can be bridged and that strong leadership on both is needed.

"As a regional superpower, Turkey has the ability to bridge the gaps and bring normalization and co-existence to the region," he said.

As the celebration continued inside the Turkish envoy's home, some 20 Armenian nationals protested outside. To the Israeli guests they called out, "Shame on you; you're people also went through a Holocaust."

Associated Press contributed to the report

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