Ashkenazi holds security talks in Turkey

IDF chief also participates in NATO terrorism conference during visit to Ankara.

ashkenazi arrives in turkey 311 IDF (photo credit: IDF)
ashkenazi arrives in turkey 311 IDF
(photo credit: IDF)
In a sign of improving ties with Turkey, IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi flew to Ankara on Monday to hold talks with his Turkish counterpart Gen. Ilker Basbug.
Ashkenazi also participated in a NATO terrorism conference on the sidelines where he met privately with Basbug and Turkish Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul. He also laid a wreath at the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of the Republic of Turkey.
Ashkenazi discussed regional security issues with a focus on Iran’s nuclear program as well as the rearmament of Hizbullah in southern Lebanon. Israel is concerned that some weapons shipments make their way to Hizbullah via Turkey.
The trip was initially kept secret, in view of recent tensions between Jerusalem and Ankara. Ashkenazi’s trip on Monday is the first visit by an IDF chief of staff since the 2005 visit by Dan Halutz.
IDF spokesman Brig.-Gen. Avi Benayahu said that when the IAF aircraft landed in Ankara an Israeli flag was flying high and about 80 TV cameras were in attendance.
Benayahu said that the visit was initially kept secret due to security considerations.
“This visit is on the military-strategic level, not a diplomatic level. The Turks are not hiding it and neither are we,” he said.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak visited Ankara in January in an effort toease tensions between the countries and restore defense ties strainedby Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip last year, as well as addressdelays in the supply of Israeli-made unmanned aerial vehicles to theTurkish military.
The IDF would like the IAF return to trainingin Turkey, which it has not done since Cast Lead. In October, Turkeycanceled the IAF’s participation in a planned exercise just days beforethe planes were supposed to leave for the drill.