Turkish FM: We would never cooperate with Israel against a Muslim country

Jerusalem formally mum on US leaks blaming it for Thursday’s attack against Syria, but believed to be dismayed.

Turkish FM Ahmet Davutoglu 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Turkish FM Ahmet Davutoglu 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu categorically denied claims that his country cooperated with Israel in Thursday’s attack on a Syrian missile base, saying Turkey would never help the Jewish state against a Muslim country.
“There is an attempt to give the impression that Turkey has coordinated with Israel,” the Hurriyet Daily News quoted him Saturday as saying at a press conference with visiting Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
“We have issues with Syria, an issue based on a principle. But let me say it clearly: The Turkish government has never cooperated with Israel against any Muslim country, and it never will,” he said.
On Thursday, the Lebanese television station MTV cited Israeli officials who allegedly claimed that Turkey had supported the strike by providing Israel with critical information.
Davutoglu characterized the reports as “black propaganda.”
“Those [reports] are attempts to cast a shadow on the Syrian people’s rightful struggle and Turkey’s attitude with principles,” he said. “It is out of the question for us to participate in any common operation.”
Davutoglu said Turkey would come out against any Israeli operation but emphasized that information on who had been behind Thursday’s strike was not yet confirmed.
An air base near the port city of Latakia was reported to have been completely destroyed in a missile attack from the sea.
On Saturday, Israeli officials remained tight-lipped about both the attack and US administration leaks claiming that Israel had been responsible.
Nevertheless, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and other cabinet ministers have said repeatedly in the past that Israel would not tolerate the transfer to Hezbollah of game-changing weapons such as advanced Russian anti-aircraft or anti-ship missiles, long range missiles or chemical arms.
“We have said many times that we will not allow the transfer of advanced weapons to Hezbollah,” Home Front Defense Minister Gilad Erdan, a member of the security cabinet, told Israel Radio.
“We are sticking to this policy and I say so without denying or confirming this report.”
The security cabinet met just prior to the alleged attack, but the debate was believed to have centered on the IDF budget.
An activist in Latakia told Reuters that an explosion had rocked a garrison area housing an air force brigade loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad near Snobar Jableh village mid-afternoon on Wednesday.
Ambulances were heard rushing to the scene, although the activist, who called himself Khaled, said there was a “total media blackout” about the incident.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights quoted sources as saying there had been four or five explosions at the base, but only limited damage. The Al-Arabiya news network said SAM-8 anti-aircraft missiles had been destroyed.
Former Syrian intelligence agent Afaq Ahmad, a defector now in exile in France, told Reuters Thursday that contacts inside Syria, including in Latakia province, told him Russian-made ballistic missiles had been kept at the site.
Khaled, the Latakia activist, said Assad loyalists were frustrated over Israel’s apparent impunity, recalling that the Syrian president had previously indicated Syria would respond to further attacks.
“Yet Israel keeps hitting us and there’s no retaliation. So even the staunchest loyalists are getting very upset,” he said.
Locals said they did not hear warplanes at the time of the blasts, and there was initial confusion about who was behind them. A source who declined to be named said the limited damage on the ground suggested pinpoint missile strikes.
A foreign diplomat said that in the past the Israelis had succeeded in creating confusion by using stand-off ordnance – missiles or gliding bombs that can be released long distances from the target.
That US officials were placing responsibility for the attack on Israel’s shoulders raised “very disturbing questions” and affected “trust between allies,” an unnamed Israeli official was quoted as saying Saturday in the British newspaper The Guardian.
“Sharing information is embedded in the nature of the relationship between Israel and the US,” the official said. “It’s like a big pipeline that’s open to permanent flow. So disclosing information is a cause for dismay.”
This would not be the first time Israel was alarmed at a US penchant to leak sensitive information. Last April, Israeli officials expressed concern following a spate of high-profile reports quoting senior US officials discussing a possible Israeli military operation against Iran, including one in the US journal Foreign Policy claiming that Israel had secured the use of airbases in Azerbaijan for a possible attack on the Islamic Republic.
Some analysts have said the US leaks might signal irritation in Washington over Israeli action at a time when Syria had bowed to international pressure and was dismantling its large chemical weapons arsenal.
Uzi Rabi, director of the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Tel Aviv University, said Israel had to make many calculations before approving attacks on Syria.
“Israel is sending a message to Assad, saying don’t play games with us,” Rabi said.
He added, however, that Israel must also realize that “the situation is becoming much more delicate than ever because this is going against the US diplomatic agenda.”
Rabi said the “working assumption” in Israel was that Assad was so focused on battling rebels that he could not afford to retaliate.
However, he expected that Syria would seek international support to prevent Israeli air strikes.
Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.