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Monday, August 23, 2004

Turkish PM to send top advisers to Israel

In a surprise move, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is preparing to send his top three advisers to Israel to repair ties, with a clear message that the Jewish state holds a unique place for Turkey."

Erdogan's harshly-worded statements against Jerusalem since the assassination of Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin in March had eroded ties with Israel.

Egemen Bagis, Omer Celik, and Saban Disli, advisers who accompany Erdogan on every visit to abroad and are known as his right arms, helping him to shape vital foreign policies, will arrive in Jerusalem on August 30. The trip is to take place just a month before Erdogan's planned visit to Syria.

A Top Turkish government official told The Jerusalem Post that the advisers' visit is meant solely to deliver the message of Erdogan's good will toward Israel directly to his counterpart, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Fatih Altayli, a prominent columnist for the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet, commented on the visit in an article in Thursday's edition, referring to the advisers as Erdogan's "three aces". Their visit seems to be an attempt to normalize ties between the two allies, Altayli wrote.

Some have suggested that pressure from the United States and American Jewish lobbies might have played a role in convincing Erdogan and his advisers that relations with Israel shouldn't be allowed to remain in poor shape.