'Turkey and Israel share interests'

Barak in Ankara: Friendship, cooperation will continue.

barak smile 298 88 (photo credit: AP [file])
barak smile 298 88
(photo credit: AP [file])
In a joint press conference with visiting Defense Minister Ehud Barak in Ankara, Turkish Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul on Sunday said that Israel and Turkey would remain strategic allies as long as their interests force them to do so.
Barak met with his Turkish counterpart Sunday afternoon for talks on a wide range of issues including the peace talks with the Palestinian Authority and the Syrian peace track, as well as joint defense cooperation.
"We are living in the same area although we do not have the same borders, we have the same interests," Gonul said following Sunday's meeting with Barak. "We will continue to be strategic allies as long as our interests force us to do so."
Barak met earlier for over three hours with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, a meeting which an Israeli official said was conducted in a "very friendly atmosphere." The official, traveling with Barak, spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
Barak is the first Israeli official to visit Turkey since the diplomatic feud that erupted Monday after Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon summoned Turkish Ambassador Ahmet Oguz Celikkol to complain about an anti-Israeli TV show. The ambassador was forced to sit on a low sofa without a handshake, while Ayalon explained to local TV stations that the humiliation was intentional. Outraged, Turkey threatened to recall the ambassador, forcing Ayalon to apologize.
Asked about the incident, Barak said he believed "it was a mistake, diplomatic relations should be run according to norms of diplomacy."
He went on to say that his visit to Ankara made him more confident "that even ups and downs can be corrected and we can continue tradition of friendship and cooperation."
"Turkey," Barak added, is "an important player in the region one of the pillars of the Middle East."
"We highly appreciate the relationship with Turkey and want it top deepen," Barak said. "We discussed a wider situation in the ME, the challenges and opportunities."
Asked about Iran's nuclear program, Gonul said Turkey believes all countries have a right to develop different energy technologies, but that "Turkey does not want nuclear bombs for itself and its neighbors."
Regarding the Syrian peace track, Barak said that the sides discussed different aspects of the track and exchanged ideas but "there is nothing to say about this."
Gonul said Israel and Turkey had finalized details of the controversial UAV deal, and that Israel would deliver 6 drones in March, while the final 4 drones were set to be delivered in November. He praised Barak for working tirelessly to solve problems that came up throughout the course of the negotiations.
The Turkish defense minister said that the IDF and the Turkish military would continue to hold joint exercises, particularly in the search-and-rescue field, adding that Barak's visit to Ankara will advance those bilateral relations.
Gonul went on to say that Israel and Turkey have completed thirteen joint defense projects and that another six were currently underway. He revealed that Turkey and Israel were currently holding negotiations with two other countries about the sale of M-60 tanks that would be upgraded by both Israeli and Turkish companies together.
JPost.com staff contributed to this report