Turkey sees positive signs for Israel-Syria talks
ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Syria has said it is ready to restart peace talks with Israel mediated by Turkey, and there are some positive signals from the Israeli side, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday.
Speaking in Saudi Arabia during a visit to receive a prize for services to Islam, Erdogan said his government was assessing whether to resume its role.
"Syria wants Turkey's mediation. Israel sometimes gives positive signals on it. The situation will be evaluated," Erdogan was quoted as saying by state-run news agency Anatolia.
"If we reach a positive conclusion, I hope we will start the process," he said.
An aide to Erdogan told Reuters no formal request for mediation had been received from the Israeli government.
Israel and Syria held four indirect rounds of peace talks with Turkish mediation in 2008, but they were suspended following the resignation of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in September that year.
A senior official in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's bureau also said no decision had been taken on whether to renew talks with Syria under Turkish mediation.
The official went on to cautiously welcome Erdogan's reported comments, saying: "If the words reflect Turkey's wish to strengthen its ties with Israel and to contribute to forwarding peace, this, of course, is a welcome aspiration."
Some Israeli politicians had aired reservations in recent months about Turkey's suitability as relations soured after Erdogan's repeated criticism of the Israeli offensive in Palestinian-ruled Gaza in December 2008 and January 2009.
The Israeli coalition appears divided over whether to recommence peace talks with Turkey acting as mediator.
Muslim but secular Turkey has a history of military cooperation with Israel, and has acted as an intermediary between the Jewish state and the Arab World.
(Reporting by Simon Cameron-Moore and Zerin Elci)
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