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Israeli foreign minister visits Turkey in effort to better ties

JERUSALEM, April 8 (JTA) — Foreign Minister David Levy made a two-day visit to Turkey this week in an effort to strengthen ties with the predominantly Muslim country. His visit, which began Tuesday, came a week after the Turkish Parliament ratified a free-trade agreement with Israel. Turkey’s secularist generals seek closer ties with the Jewish state, a move resisted by Islamist Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan, who grudgingly agreed to meet with Levy. Prior to leaving for Turkey, Levy said he hoped to establish better relations with Erbakan, who has been a strong critic of Israel. “His stance will be heard. He will also hear our stance,” Levy said. Levy’s visit came as international criticism increased about Israel for its recent decision to build a new Jewish neighborhood in southeastern Jerusalem, a move that has prompted three weeks of violent Palestinian protests. At a meeting Tuesday in New Delhi, foreign ministers of the Non-Aligned Movement called on members to freeze diplomatic ties with Israel. The move comes after the Arab League recently made a similar recommendation. The foreign ministers also called for an urgent session of the United Nations General Assembly to discuss what they described as Israel’s violations of U.N. resolutions. In a separate development, the Persian Gulf state of Oman this week confirmed that it had denied entry visas to two Israeli diplomats, a move that Omani officials said came as a result of the Arab League recommendation. Oman also has barred Israeli participation at a communications exhibition in the capital of Muscat.