Israeli, Turkish officials: Ties are steady

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Israeli and Turkish officials said relations remained good in the wake of a public falling-out between the countries’ leaders.

"We give special importance to our bilateral ties with Israel and we want to preserve ties with that country," Cemil Cicek, Turkey’s deputy prime minister, was quoted as saying Monday by the French news agency AFP. "We are now looking towards the future. Turkey is not targeting Israel and the Israeli people."

Ha’aretz, the Israeli daily, quoted Israeli officials as saying that top officials of both countries were meeting to calm tensions.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister, stormed off the stage on Jan. 29 during a panel at an economic forum in Davos, Switzerland. He had said during the panel that Israel must accommodate dealing with Hamas, the terrorist group that controls the Gaza Strip, in the wake of the Gaza war launched in December when Hamas ended a cease-fire.

Shimon Peres, the Israeli president, delivered an emotional response, asking how Turkey would deal with a terrorist group attacking its people with rockets.

Erdogan tried to answer but was cut off by the mediator. He accused Israel of "barbarianism," gathered his papers and left.

The reports Monday of steady relations appear aimed at stemming an outburst of reports from unnamed sources of deteriorating ties.

The Jerusalem Post said Israel was considering rejecting Turkish requests for the sale of advanced military equipment, and the Associated Press quoted an Israeli official as saying that Israel was reconsidering Turkey’s role as a mediator with Syria. Other reports have said that Israelis are canceling vacations to Turkey.

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