Turkey Defends Ban on Israel in Military Exercises

YEREVAN (News.am)—Turkey has defended its decision to ban Israel from joint military exercises over the Israeli offensive in Gaza 11 months ago.

The decision to cancel a planned joint military exercise with Israel was an expression of the Turkish people’s will, Turkish Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in an interview with Al Jazeera TV.

The NATO air exercises with Israel were due to begin on Monday in Turkey’s Anatolian region, but days earlier Ankara told the Israeli military it was no longer invited to attend. The US and Italy subsequently opted not to take part either and the war games were called off.

According to Erdogan, the Turkish Government took public opinion into account when deciding whether to allow Israel to participate in the war games. The Government discussed the problem and decided against Israel’s participation in the air force maneuvers, Erdogan said, underscoring the need to consider all the “diplomatic delicacies” surrounding the issue.

The move is a clear sign the offensive, in which over 1,100 Palestinians were killed is still causing the Jewish state diplomatic damage.

In an interview with CNN on October 11, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu explained that Ankara refused Israeli participation in the exercises in protest of that country’s offensive on Gaza ten months ago. He said the actual exercises were only canceled because the United Sates and Italy pulled out after the move.

Some in Israel fear that Turkey’s ruling party has managed to overcome the army’s opposition, and the traditional Israeli-Turkish cooperation is coming to its end.

Analysts close to the issue point to Turkey’s recent push to normalize ties with Armenia as a sign that that it may be readying to form an alliance with Iran. Ankara is also consolidating its relations with the Syria, they add, underscoring the possible threat to Israel such an axis may pose.

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