Israel’s War Against Palestine: Documenting the Military Occupation of Palestinian and Arab Lands

Israel to Turkey FM: If you want to visit Gaza, don’t come here

8 September 2009

By Barak Ravid, Haaretz – 8 Sept 2009

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s planned visit to Israel has been left in doubt after Jerusalem warned that he would not be allowed to enter the Gaza Strip from Israeli territory.

Davutoglu had been invited to take part in the Presidents’ Conference, which is scheduled to take place in a few weeks in Jerusalem.

However, the recent warning and the tense relations between Israel and Turkey since Operation Cast Lead make it now unclear whether Davutoglu will make the trip.

Israeli officials’ principal fear in regard to the visit is that if Davutoglu goes to Gaza, it will become a festive event for Hamas and it will become a media circus with the Turkish FM staying amidst the rubble of buildings destroyed by the IDF during Cast Lead. Officials suspect Davutoglu would also be encouraged to make anti-Israel statements.

Israel-Turkey relations have been tense since Cast Lead, especially in light of a televised fracas between President Shimon Peres and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the Davos Conference this past January.

Turkey adopted a critical stance on Israel and Erdogan maintained that Israel was carrying out genocide in the Gaza Strip. Since then, the two states have maintained diplomatic and military contacts but have not had any meetings between high-level officials.

Davutoglu was appointed foreign minister only recently, and has sought a role in future peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

A senior Israeli official said that over a month ago the head of the Turkish Foreign Ministry contacted his Israeli counterpart Yossi Gal, and offered to arrange a visit by the Turkish foreign minister to Israel.

The Turkish official asked Gal about the possibility of a visit to Gaza and Gal told him that he would be welcomed warmly in Israel but that a visit to the Gaza Strip would “not be helpful”.

A few weeks later, Turkish offices again tried to bring up the issue of a visit to Gaza and Turkey’s Ambassador to Israel Namik Tan met with Gal and told him that Davutoglu received an invite to the Presidents’ Conference in October and was weighing whether to attend. The Turkish ambassador asked if a trip to Gaza during that time would be possible.

The decision was later made in the Foreign Ministry that if the Turkish foreign minister’s trip to Israel were to include a visit to the Gaza Strip, the request would have to be refused.

A top Israel official said “Turkish leadership during Operation Cast Lead did not encourage us to agree to this request.”

Gal told the Turkish ambassador that “there are other places in the world from where it’s possible to enter the Gaza Strip.”

In the statement, Gal was implying that Egypt would be a possible point of entry to the Strip, but Israeli sources have said the Egyptian would not be inclined to allow the Turkish foreign minister to enter Gaza from their territory

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