(AFP) – Dec 29, 2008
ANKARA (AFP) — Turkey said on Monday it was ending efforts to organise peace talks between Israel and Syria because of the Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip.
"The continuation of the talks under these conditions is naturally impossible," Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan told reporters after discussions with Egyptian counterpart Ahmed Abul Gheit.
"To make war on the Israeli-Palestinian track and at the same time make peace on the Israeli-Syrian track -- these two cannot go together," he said.
A Syrian official said on Sunday that the indirect peace talks were halted because of Israel's "aggression" in Gaza.
Babacan recalled that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert discussed progress in the talks in Ankara last Monday. He stressed that Israel's onslaught in Gaza, which began days afterwards on Saturday, had led to "profound regret and disappointment" in Turkey.
"I repeat my call for an immediate ceasefire," Babacan said. "The guns should be silenced and diplomacy should start working."
In May, Syria and Israel -- technically still at war since the first Arab-Israeli conflict in 1948 -- began indirect talks after direct negotiations halted eight years ago over the thorny Golan Heights issue.
Following four rounds of negotiations, the process has been on hold since Olmert announced in July he would step down over corruption allegations.
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