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Turkey pledges support for Abbas in Palestinian struggle, reforms (AFP-FRANCE PRESSE) ANKARA, Turkey 02/02/05 7:15 AM ET)Source: http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=1515&ncid=1515&e=6&u=/afp/20050202/wl_mideast_afp/mideastturkeyabbas_050202121522 AFP} Agence France Presse AFP} Agence France Presse Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
ANKARA (AFP) - Turkey pledged support for Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas in his people´s struggle for statehood and efforts to reform Palestinian institutions.

"Lasting peace and stability in the Middle East will not be possible until the Palestinian people achieve their independent state and the honorable, prosperous and free life they deserve," Turkish Parliament Speaker Bulent Arinc said at a lunch with Abbas.

"Rest assured that all your efforts for peace will be wholeheartedly supported by Turkey," he said, according to a statement released by parliament.

"We are confident that you will accomplish in the most efficient way the reforms required in the institutions of the Palestinian Authority.

"We will be happy to share with our Palestinian brothers our experience on reform and extend our solidarity," he said.

Abbas, who was visiting Ankara on the last leg of a four-nation tour following his sucession to the late Yasser Arafat, welcomed Turkey´s support.

"We take Turkey´s democratic experience as a model," he told reporters through an interpreter.

Abbas also highlighted the importance of Jerusalem for the world´s Muslims.

"With the support of peace-loving nations, Jerusalem will again belong to the Muslims and worship will continue in Jerusalem until doomsday," he said.

On Tuesday, Abbas also met with President Ahmet Necdet Sezer and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan as well as Turkish business leaders, who said they would convene a meeting with Palestinian and Israeli colleagues in Turkey in March to discuss possible joint projects.

Ankara says it is ready to assist in the revitalization of the Gaza Strip after Israel pulls its troops and settlers out by the year-end.

Counting on its close ties with both the Palestinians and Israel, Turkey is also eager to help in efforts to resolve the Israeli-Arab conflict.

During a visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories last month, Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said his country was ready to facilitate peace initiatives that should also include Syria and Lebanon.

Abbas´ talks in Ankara coincided with a visit by Israeli army chief Moshe Yaalon, who discussed ways of strengthening bilateral ties.

Turkey, a non-Arab and strictly secular Muslim nation, has been the Jewish state´s chief regional ally since 1996, when the two countries struck a military cooperation deal, much to the anger of Arab nations and Iran.

Ankara, however, has not refrained from criticizing Israel´s heavy- handed policies against the Palestinians.

Erdogan last May denounced as "state terror" a deadly Israeli raid in the Rafah region of southern Gaza, sparking an unprecedented chill in bilateral ties which his foreign minister sought to overcome during a visit to Israel in early January.

Abbas was to leave Turkey later on Wednesday. (Copyright © 2005 Agence France Presse. 02/02/05)

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