Turkey's Gul says Israeli raid a ''closed matter''

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JERUSALEM, Nov 6 (Reuters) Turkey considers Israel's violation of its airspace during a mysterious bombing in neighbouring Syria to be a ''closed matter'' after receiving a formal apology, Turkish President Abdullah Gul said.

Israel has not given details on the September 6 raid, which some analysts believe targeted a Syrian nuclear facility. But Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert apologised last month after Ankara complained at the discovery of warplane fuel tanks on its turf.

''It is no easy thing to discover that combat jets from a friendly state have penetrated your skies overnight. It is good that you apologised, even though the apology was late,'' Gul said an interview published today in Israel's Maariv newspaper.

''As we see it, the matter is closed and we hope that it will not be repeated in the future,'' he said.

Secular Muslim Turkey is the Jewish state's most important regional ally, but is also careful to maintain good ties with the Arab world. Syria denied pursuing a secret nuclear project.

Gul, whom Maariv described as a veteran mediator in Israeli-Syrian rapprochement efforts, said peace overtures out of Damascus since last year's Lebanon war have been sincere.

''To the best of my knowledge, (Syrian President) Bashar Assad demonstrated a real desire for peace with you,'' Gul said.

''There were many missed opportunities recently to begin peace negotiations between you and Syria,'' he said. ''I have no intention of publicly blaming either party. Efforts to resume negotiations continue all the time and we must not despair.'' REUTERS SS RAI1535

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