NEW YORK (Oct. 1)
Turkey is prepared to strengthen its economic, cultural and diplomatic ties with Israel. But, diplomatic sources told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Turkey in return wants Israel to use its alleged influence on the “Jewish lobby” in America to advance Turkish interests in Washington.
Foreign Minister Shimon Peres met here Wednesday with Turkish Foreign Minister Vahit Halefoglu. It was the first meeting in the last 20 years between the Foreign Ministers of the two countries.
Turkey, a Moslem country, does not have full diplomatic ties with Israel. The two countries only have consular level representations between them. Because of its solidarity with the Moslem Arab world, Turkey has been careful for years not to intensify its ties with the Jewish State, at least not openly.
The willingness of the Turkish Foreign Minister to meet with Peres represents a major shift in Ankara’s policy toward Israel and the Arab-Israeli conflict.
‘ISRAEL IS NO LONGER TABOO’
In a special interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency following the meeting between the two Foreign Ministers, the spokesman for the Turkish Foreign Ministry, Ambassador Inal Batu, said:
“The meeting between Peres and Halefoglu constitutes by itself an improvement in relations between the two countries. In addition, we demonstrated to the whole Moslem world that Israel is no longer taboo.” The Turkish official noted that Turkey is the only Moslem country in the world, apart from Egypt, which has diplomatic relations with Jerusalem.
Israeli and Turkish sources confirmed that the Turkish Foreign Minister accepted an invitation by Peres to visit Israel. If such visit indeed takes place it would mark a major progress in relations between the two countries.
Turkey seeks the influence of what it conceives to be the “powerful Jewish lobby” in Washington. The Turks believe that the Greek and Armenian lobbies in Washington are harming Turkish interests and they are convinced that the Jewish lobby is capable of turning things around to satisfy the Turkish request for American military and economic aid. Presently the Turkish government receives about $600 million annually in American foreign assistance.
Peres, in his meeting with Halefoglu Wednesday, discussed the prospects for an international peace conference on the Mideast. “We told Peres that we support an international peace conference but we stressed that such a conference must be attended by the PLO, which is the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people,” the spokesman of the Turkish Foreign Ministry told the JTA.
The JTA has learned from reliable sources that the two Foreign Ministers also discussed cooperation in the fight against international terrorism. Turkey and Israel have been cooperating secretly on this problem for some years now Turkey is a target of Armenian and Kurdish terrorists who launch hit-and-run attacks on Turkish citizens along the Turkish-Syrian border.