Turkey talking about returning as Israel-Syria go-between

NEW YORK (JTA) — Turkey’s prime minister said his country is ready to return as a mediator in indirect Israel-Syria talks.

"Requests to resume the process have started to come in, we should get to work on this issue," Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Wednesday at Ankara’s airport before leaving for a one-day visit to Syria and a meeting with President Bashar Assad.

Erdogan did not indicate what country had contacted Turkey.

"We should be ready" to relaunch the talks, he said. "We are determined to do all we can for peace in the Middle East."

Turkey brokered four rounds of indirect talks last year between Israel and Syria focusing on the return of the Golan Heights, which Israeli forces seized during the 1967 Six-Day War. Talks were suspended when Israel launched its offensive against the Palestinian Hamas rulers of the Gaza Strip in late December.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Office said in response to Erdogan’s announcement that "the prime minister said in the past that he is prepared to renew negotiations with Syria with no preconditions. The prime minister said that he is willing to travel to anywhere necessary to this end, and that any channel — the Turkish or the American one — is legitimate."

Turkey, a Muslim but secular country, is Israel’s main regional ally with strong economic ties. The Gaza offensive, however, strained relations between the countries.

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