Turkey to hike naval presence in eastern Med

"Israel will no longer be able to exercise its bullying practices freely,” a Turkish diplomatic source tells a local newspaper.

September 4, 2011 05:48
2 minute read.
Turkish soldiers

turkey soldiers 311. (photo credit: REUTERS)

The Turkish Navy will bolster its presence in the eastern Mediterranean Sea to prevent Israeli operations, Turkish officials said over the weekend, as the crisis between Jerusalem and Ankara intensified following the publication of the Palmer Report on last year’s flotilla conflict.

“A more aggressive strategy will be pursued. Israel will no longer be able to exercise its bullying practices freely,” a Turkish diplomatic source was quoted as saying in the Hurriyet Daily News. The source said that the navy would accompany ships bringing aid to the Gaza Strip.

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Turkey has threatened to deploy its navy to accompany aid ships to the Gaza Strip in the past.

Ahead of the recent flotilla that tried to set sail from Greece in June, the Israel Navy had raised concern that Turkish Navy ships would accompany Turkish aid ships. Such a scenario however never materialized.

Despite the new crisis, the IDF does not plan on recalling the newly-appointed military attaché to Ankara who took up his post last month. The new attaché is Col. Moshe Levi, former head of the Gaza Coordination and Liaison Administration.

Israeli and Turkish defense ties mostly came to a standstill following Israel’s operation to stop the Turkish flotilla last year, which ended with nine dead Turkish nationals aboard the Mavi Marmara passenger ship.

“There are no sales and no joint exercises between us and Turkey,” a defense official said on Friday. “There is also nothing planned for the near future.”

The official noted that if Turkey followed through with cutting all defense ties with Israel, the move would have a negative impact on Turkish defense companies which are dependent on Israeli companies for technology and exports.

One example is the joint venture that Israel Aerospace Industries, Elbit Systems and Turkey’s Aselsan established, which won a $183 million contract in 2005 to deliver Heron 1 unmanned aerial vehicles to the Turkish military. UAV deliveries have been completed, but Israeli defense contractors continue to travel to Turkey to provide maintenance support.

Another example is a joint venture between Israel Military Industries and Aselsan to upgrade M60A1 main battle tanks. The two companies completed the delivery last year of 170 tanks to the Turkish army in a $687m. deal. According to recent reports, the companies were vying for a new contract in Colombia.

“The Turkish companies will not be able to bid for contracts without the Israeli companies,” the official explained.

Meanwhile, as ties with Turkey continue to deteriorate, Israel is bolstering its ties with Greece.

On Sunday, the Greek Defense Minister Panos Beglitis will arrive in Israel for talks with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz.

Beglitis will be met by an honor guard at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv on Sunday and will tour IDF bases, as well as Israeli defense industries.

Greece and Israel have strengthened defense ties in recent years and both air forces have held a number of joint drills in Greece over the past year.

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