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Last Updated: Sunday, 1 May, 2005, 01:33 GMT 02:33 UK
Turkish PM holds regional talks
By Jonny Dymond
BBC News, Istanbul

Jordanian FM Farouk Kasrawi (l), Iraqi FM Hoshyar Zebari and Turkish FM Abdullah Gul
The foreign ministers pledged action on security
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has hosted a meeting of foreign ministers from Iraq and its neighbours.

Ministers described as vitally important the establishment of security and stability and strongly condemned what they called terrorism within Iraq.

The ministers promised increased cooperation on Iraqi border security.

Mr Erdogan travels another key regional player on Sunday in his first visit to Israel since coming to office two and a half years ago.

Border pledge

In the Ottoman splendour of a sultan's summer palace in Istanbul, ministers from eight countries and representatives of a range of international organisations gathered.

They came to discuss Iraq's situation and what could be done to help. Security, or the lack of it, overshadowed the day.

Last week the United States alleged that Iran and Syria were failing to secure their borders with Iraq.

Interior ministers from Iraq and the neighbouring countries will gather in Turkey to discuss security measures soon.

The ministers officially welcomed the holding of general elections and the creation of a transitional government which they pledged to support and cooperate with.

Cooling ties

On Sunday, Mr Erdogan travels to Israel.

Turkey remains a strategic and military ally of Israel, one of the few it has in the region, and for many years Turkey was the only country in the region to recognise Israel.

It is still the only one that performs military exercises with the country and there are strong economic links between the two. But the relationship has cooled recently.

The governing party in Turkey has a large Islamist constituency. They have little love for Israel and a strong dislike for the country's treatment of the Palestinians.

Reports that Israeli soldiers were training Kurdish forces in northern Iraq led to barely-concealed anger in Turkey.

Israel's denials were politely received and as Turkey moves away from the United States and closer to the European Union, it appears to feel freer about voicing criticism of Israel.

But Turkey feels it could have a mediating role in the region.

Mr Erdogan will meet Israeli and Palestinian leaders 100 business people are said to be accompanying the Turkish prime minister.

Mr Erdogan is cooler towards Israel than some of his predecessors, but a relationship which still strikes many as a curious one, remains intact.

Turkey rebuilds ties with Israel
04 Jan 05 |  Middle East
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08 Jun 04 |  Middle East
Turkey slams 'Israeli terrorism'
03 Jun 04 |  Middle East

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