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Monday, August 07, 2000, updated at 08:51(GMT+8)

Arafat Asks for More Active Turkish Role in Mideast Peacemaking

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has asked Turkish government to play a more active role in the Mideast peace process, especially in talks with Israel over the fate of Jerusalem.

Arafat, who arrived Saturday to brief Turkish leader on the latest development in the Palestinian-Israeli peace talks, has met Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer, Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit and Foreign Minister Ismail Cem, Turkey's Anatolia News Agency reported on Sunday.

Arafat is launching a campain to rally support after the failure of Camp David talks with Israel near Washington last month. He had visited France, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt, and South Africa.

During 15 days of tough talks, the two sides failed to reach consensus over core issues, especially the status of Jerusalem, to pave way for clinch a permanent peace deal by September. Both sides want the holy city as their capital.

During his talks with Turkish leaders, Arafat complained about policies adopted by Israeli administration over Jerusalem while asking for Turkish support.

The Ottoman Turks had ruled Jerusalem, as well as the rest of the Middle East, for 400 years until early 20th century.

Turkish leaders have expressed their support for Arafat and assured that they would discuss the issue during meetings with Israeli officials.

Two Israeli ministers were reported to visit Turkey next week. They will explain Israel's position and update Turkish authorities about the current situation in the peace process.

Turkish leaders said that they will stress Ankara's sensitivity over Jerusalem and urge the Israeli government to review its policies over the holy places in the city. But it made no clear

support for Arafat's decision to unilaterally declare a Palestinian state.

In Saturday's talks, Turkish leaders told Arafat his decision to unilaterally declare Palestinian statehood on September 13 "would not affect Turkish-Palestinian relations because we have already recognized you."

It was indicated that Turkey has already recognized Palestinian independence by allowing the Palestinians to maintain an embassy in Ankara.

When the Middle East peace process was launched in Madrid, Spain, in 1991, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Office in Ankara was turned into an embassy.

But analysts said that this was different from support of Palestinian statehood to be announced unilaterally on September 13.

Turkish leaders have advised Arafat to be moderate towards his decision, saying that the a unilateral declaration of Palestinian state will bring about confusion and chaos in the region and should be thought over.

Analysts said that Turkey is trying to pursue a balanced position between its Muslim brother Palestine and its Mideast ally Israel.

Turkey has formed close military, political and economic ties with Israel in order to contain their common rivals Syria and Iran in the region.

Turkey was among the first Muslim countries to recognize Israel in 1948 when is was founded, but lowered its diplomatic representation to Israel to charge d'affaires level in 1981 when

Israel declared Jerusalem as its "eternal" capital. It also closed its consulate-general in Arab East Jerusalem as well.

But Turkey raised its diplomatic relations with Israel to ambassadorial level in 1991 when it turned the PLO Office in Ankara into an embassy.

In This Section

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has asked Turkish government to play a more active role in the Mideast peace process, especially in talks with Israel over the fate of Jerusalem.

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