Turkey denies Petraeus visit aims to mend ties with Israel
A Turkish diplomatic official, speaking to Today’s Zaman on condition of anonymity, has dismissed a report in the Turkish media that Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director David Petraeus’s visit to Turkey aims to mend ties between former allies Turkey and Israel, adding that mediation is not necessary.The Radikal daily reported on Thursday that the main goal of Petraeus’s one-day surprise visit to Turkey, which took place on Monday, was to mend broken ties between the two countries.
The daily claimed that the US had sent Petraeus to cool anger between the nations, adding that with the visit of the CIA director, Turkey would receive a long-awaited apology from Israel — in particular, from Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
The daily also claimed that Petraeus was accompanied by US Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman, two US senators with close ties to Israel.
However, a Turkish diplomatic official dismissed the report as untrue in conversation with Today’s Zaman. “Israel already knows what it needs to do, and that is to apologize to Turkey. Mediation by another country is not required for that,” he stated, adding that Turkey has its own channels of mediation with Israel if needed.
Relations between Turkey and Israel, long-time allies in the Middle East, deteriorated sharply after Israeli commandos killed eight Turks and one Turkish-American during a 2010 raid on the Mavi Marmara, an aid ship trying to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza.
Turkey has addressed Israel on international platforms and taken the matter through international courts, demanding an official apology and compensation for the families of the victims.
Israel has rejected these demands, claiming its soldiers acted in self-defense. Turkey has also expelled the Israeli envoy and cut military ties with Israel in protest of its refusal to apologize for the killings.
The same diplomat also dismissed reports that Lieberman was open to taking a page from US diplomacy in crafting a statement to end the impasse with Ankara. “There is no change in Lieberman’s stance. Our demands are clear,” said the diplomat.
Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth said on Wednesday that Israel had signaled a willingness to adopt the diplomatic language used to smooth US-Pakistani relations in order to end its more than two-year rift with Turkey.
Analysts claim the reason behind Israel’s hesitant approach is a suspicion that Turkey could use the Mavi Marmara issue on international platforms as an instrument against Israel, even if Israel apologizes.
Possible repercussions of the destabilization of Syria and its sectarian conflicts with the power to fragment the country concern Syrian neighbors Israel and Turkey, which could also explain why mending ties between the two has returned to the agenda.
Petraeus arrived In İstanbul on Monday for talks with Turkish officials on the situation in Syria and the fight against the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
This was the second unannounced visit by the US spy chief to Turkey in the last six months. He spent two days in Ankara in March, meeting with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Turkish counterpart, National Intelligence Organization (MİT) Undersecretary Hakan Fidan, to discuss the deepening instability in Syria, their joint fight against terrorism and closer cooperation on pressing regional issues. His program is being kept secret for security reasons.
According to news reports, during the unannounced visit, Petraeus was expected to meet with Prime Minister Erdoğan, Fidan and Foreign Affairs Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu to discuss the situation in Syria and the fight against the PKK.
However, a Turkish official from the Office of the Prime Ministry, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Today’s Zaman that there had been no meeting with Petraeus on the prime minister’s agenda.
Likewise, a senior Turkish official from the Foreign Ministry, also speaking on condition of anonymity, told Today’s Zaman that a meeting between the foreign minister and the CIA head was not on Davutoğlu’s agenda, but added that this does not mean that such a meeting did not happen.
The CIA and MİT are cooperating closely to gather intelligence about the situation in Syria. MİT is also working with the CIA to monitor developments in neighboring Iran and Iraq.