Israel eyes Syria-Turkey military drill

As Israel-Turkey relations deteriorate, past military ties may expose Israel.

April 28, 2010 05:45
1 minute read.
Scud D launcher

Scud D launcher. (photo credit: Courtesy)


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Syria and Turkey began three days of joint military exercises on Tuesday, raising concerns within the Israeli defense establishment about the strengthening ties between the two countries.

The military exercise, which will focus on border protection – Syria and Turkey share a land border – is the latest step in attempts by Ankara and Damascus to strengthen diplomatic and military ties. The countries last held joint military maneuvers in April 2009.

Ties between Israel and Turkey have significantly deteriorated over the past 17 months since the IDF launched Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip, culminating in a decision in October to nix Israeli participation in a planned joint air force exercise in Turkey called Anatolian Eagle.

Until Operation Cast Lead last winter, the IAF frequently flew over Turkey, and had participated in several annual exercises with the Turkish Air Force. Following the offensive against Hamas and the deterioration in Israeli-Turkish relations, Ankara has refused to allow Israel to deploy its fighter jets in Turkey.

The IDF has made concerted efforts to improve ties. In March, IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi flew to Ankara for talks with his Turkish counterpart, Gen. Ilker Basbug. The deputy Turkish chief of staff is scheduled to visit Israel in the coming months.

Despite the attempts to restore ties, the Defense Ministry is wary of the growing Islamic trends in the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and as a result has decided to evaluate with caution the sale of advanced military platforms to the Turkish military.

Turkey has expressed interest in a number of advanced Israeli platforms – such as the Namer armored personnel carrier and the Barak 8 missile defense system for its navy.

Israel is concerned that the border-protection exercises between Syria and Turkey will lead to full-fledged defense ties between the countries and to the possible transfer of Israeli technology from Turkey to Syria.

Nevertheless, the two countries are pursuing joint business ventures and are in talks with the Colombian military about the possible sale of upgraded M60 tanks, the same tanks that Israel Military Industries together with Turkey’s Aselsan upgraded for the Turkish military.

The two companies handed over the last of the 170 tanks in a ceremony earlier this month in Turkey.

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