ANKARA, (Reuters) – Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday Turkey would send a team of experts to Jerusalem to survey archaeological work near the al-Aqsa mosque which has triggered protests across the Muslim world.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, speaking at the same news conference during a visit to Ankara, said he welcomed the decision, saying: “We have nothing to hide.” “The work which is being conducted is being done outside the Temple Mount area. We are very happy to host the prime minister’s team and therefore the right and correct and exact story will come out,” Olmert said.
Israel insists the dig poses no threat to sites revered by Muslims. Olmert said he had shown Erdogan photographs of the area, but the Turkish leader said he did not know the area and so was not completely convinced by Olmert’s assurances.
Muslim but secular Turkey is one of the few countries in the region to enjoy good ties with both Israel and the Palestinians as well as with Israel’s foes Iran and Syria. Ankara is keen to play a more active diplomatic role in the region. “As a modern Muslim country Turkey can play a role building ties between Israel and Muslim countries that do not have relations with Israel,” Olmert said.