US government officials in Washington said that the Obama administration may try to use Defense Minister Ehud Barak's current visit to the US as an opportunity to try to get the two countries to "patch things up", according to a blog on the website "Politico". The Turkish ambassador to the US, Namik Tan, who has also served as Turkey's ambassador to Israel, and who has many high ranking friends in the Foreign and Defense Ministries, may serve as a mediator.
Barak arrived in Washington on Sunday. He is set to fly back to Israel on Thursday. Today, he is set to meet top administration officials, including US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, as well as legislators. On Thursday, he is set to meet Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, and with Dennis Ross, Clinton's special advisor on Iran. It is not clear if any attempts at healing the rift with Turkey will be in the context of these meetings or in meetings whose details are not yet known.
Tan told "Politico" that several hours before the flotilla incident, he spoke with Israeli ambassador to the US Michael Oren, and arranged a meeting between Prime Minister Netanyahu and Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu. The two were to meet in Washington, with Netanyahu arriving from Canada, and Davutoglu arriving from Brazil. However, in the wake of the violent interception of the flotilla, Netanyahu cancelled his Washington visit and returned to Israel, and Davutoglu flew straight to New York to participate in the UN discussion.
US administration officials dispute Turkish conspiracy theories that the US or Israel were responsible for violent confrontations on Turkey's border with Iraq last weekend. Several Turkish soldiers were killed in the clashes.
In the meantime, Chabad rabbis have been working on their own to patch things up. An annual conference of the movement included a lunch for Chabad emissaries from around the world, and representatives of the countries in which they operate. JTA reported that when a leading Chabad rabbi, Rabbi Levi Shemtov, noticed that a representative from Turkey's embassy had not arrived, he called the embassy and asked the deputy chief of mission Suleyman Gokce if he was "trying to send a message to all the Jews in the world". Gokce arrived at the lunch and sat next to the Istanbul emissary, Rabbi Mendy Citrik.
Following warm words by the Chabad rabbi, Murad Mercan, the chairman of the Turkish parliament’s foreign affairs committee who was visiting Washington at the time, attended a dinner that evening at the conference, where Elie Wiesel spoke.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on June 23, 2010
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