First joint maneuvers since Operation Cast Lead indicate reduction of tensions with Ankara.
By YAAKOV KATZ
In a sign that tension between Jerusalem and Ankara has cooled down, two Israeli Navy missile ships will sail to Turkey next week to participate in the annual Reliant Mermaid search-and-rescue naval exercise.
The maneuvers will be held in the Mediterranean Sea together with the Turkish and American navies. The exercise, the first joint one with Turkey since relations with Ankara grew tense during Operation Cast Lead, will begin on August 17.
Several months after the January war, OC Ground Forces Command Maj.-Gen. Avi Mizrachi said in a lecture that Prime Minister Recep Erdogan needed to "look in a mirror" - and see the Armenian genocide and Turkish occupation of northern Cyprus - before criticizing Israel.
Mizrachi's comments were negatively received in Ankara, particularly by the Turkish military, which is a strategic partner to the IDF. Since Operation Cast Lead, the IAF - which regularly flew over Turkey for training - has yet to deploy there and even sat out of a large-scale aerial exercise called Anatalian Eagle, which was held in June, and which it had attended in previous years.
The Reliant Mermaid exercise is aimed at improving coordination between the Israeli, US and Turkish navies. Part of the challenge is for all three navies to communicate in joint search-and-rescue operations that could arise in the future.
The INS Lahav and INS Sufa will represent Israel at the exercise, which will be attended by eight missile ships and three helicopters.
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