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Wednesday, 8 August, 2001, 14:27 GMT 15:27 UK
Turkey says Israel 'unrealistic' on peace
Demonstration against Sharon's visit in Istanbul
Turkish Islamists are angry with Israel's response
Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit has told his Israeli counterpart Ariel Sharon that it is "unrealistic" for Israel to demand a complete end to violence before resuming the peace process.

Mr Ecevit was speaking as Mr Sharon made a one-day visit to Ankara, where he urged the Turkish Government - one of Israel's few allies in the Middle East - to put pressure on the Palestinians to end their 10-month-old uprising.

Mr Ecevit said: "The end of violence should not be a pre-condition, because the opponents of peace can step up violence and block the reaching of an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians forever."

Mr Sharon reiterated his position that there must be a total cessation of violence before any talks can resume.

"There's only one thing to understand - we are committed to peace and I am ready to make painful concessions for peace but I will not make any concessions on the security of the people of Israel," Mr Sharon said.


The visit comes as Turkey finds itself increasingly uneasy about Israel's tough response to the Palestinian intifada.

Riot police in Istanbul
Police detained some 130 protesters on the eve of Sharon's visit

Turkey strongly supports Palestinian claims to statehood in the West Bank in Gaza, but it also has close relations with Israel.

The two countries co-operate on defence and security matters. They are negotiating the possible sale of Turkish fresh water to Israel, and they have a growing trade relationship.

Those may be the issues Ariel Sharon wanted to talk about to Turkey's leaders, but the continuing violence between Israel and the Palestinians will have cast a long shadow.

A small group of anti-Israeli demonstrators gathered in Istanbul in Tuesday, and there were a number of arrests.

Manavgat River, Turkey
The two countries are discussing the sale of water to Israel
Pro-Islamist newspapers in Turkey have also criticised the government's decision to host Mr Sharon while the violence continues.

Turkish officials argue that they have a role to play in maintaining contact between the two sides, and this visit is part of that process.

Israel's foreign and defence ministers and the chief of staff of the armed forces have also been in Ankara in recent months, a sign that Israel certainly values its relationship with Turkey.

The Turkish Government feels the same, but its loyalties are divided, and it is having to perform a difficult balancing act.

See also:

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31 Jul 01 | Middle East
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