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Prince Turki And Ayalon's Handshake Downplayed

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Both Saudi Arabia's Prince Turki Al Faisal and Israeli Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon have downplayed the importance of a handshake between them - although for different reasons.

The handshake occurred after a minor spat at an international security conference in Munich, Germany over the seating arrangement. Turki had said he did not want to sit next to Ayalon because of Ayalon's recent public humiliation of Turkish ambassador Ahmet Oguz Celikkol.

"This event should not be taken out of context or misunderstood," Turki said in a statement. "My strong objections and condemnations of Israel's policies and actions against the Palestinians remain unchanged...Until Israel heeds US President Barack Obama's call for the removal of all settlements, the Israelis must be under no illusion that Saudi Arabia will offer what they most desire - regional recognition."

Turki's statement went on to say that he had only shaken hands with Ayalon after the Israeli Foreign Minister had apologized for his behavior. However, Ayalon has issued a statement saying this did not happen.

"Everyone who was present at the conference knows there was no apology from the deputy minister to the Saudi prince," said the statement.

"To those who did not take part in the conference we suggest they check the video recordings to verify what really happened."

Saudi Arabia has in the past been criticized by its more hardline Arabic neighbors for its relatively cordial relationships with Israel.

The handshake had drawn applause at the event. Afterward, Ayalon seemed upbeat. "There is a chance," he said, referring to chances for peace. "I am very glad."


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