Egypt Expresses Concern over Turkey Israel Ties

CAIRO (Reuters)–Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak met visiting Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem Sunday and discussed relations soured by Arab concerns over Ankara’s growing military ties with Israel–official sources said.

Cem said in a brief statement to reporters that he had had "frank and constructive" talks with Mubarak.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Moussa–who met his Turkish counterpart on Saturday night–said that during the meeting he expressed Cairo’s concern over growing military ties between Turkey and Israel. They signed a defense pact in 1996.

Mubarak and other Arab leaders have criticized joint naval exercises in east Mediterranean by Turkey–Israel and the United States–seeing them as directed against Syria.

"What we are talking about is not normal relations between Turkey and Israel. We are talking about steps taken in the strategic or military framework that may affect regional stability," Moussa told a joint news conference after his Saturday talks with Cem.

"Egypt is following very closely all these developmen’s–which can… affect future ties in the region," he added.

Moussa said Cem assured Egypt that Turkey was not moving towards forging a strategic alliance with Israel.

"That’s fine if it is true… We have no reason–intention or justification to reject what the Turkish foreign minister is saying," he added.

Moussa said Turkey and Egypt were studying the creation of a free-trade zone and the conclusion of an investment protection agreement.

The two ministers agreed to hold regular consultations and senior officials from both countries will meet every six months–while their foreign ministers will meet once a year.

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