ANKARA (Reuter)–Turkey–Israel and the United States are to hold joint naval manoeuvres in the eastern Mediterranean in November–an Israeli embassy spokesman’said on Tuesday.
"They will take place at some time between November 15 and 25," the Israeli spokesman told Reuters. He said the three navies would rehearse search and rescue operations in international waters.
Syria reacted angrily–expressing "astonishment" at the announcement of a U.S. role in the exercises as Washington prepared to rescue the Middle East peace process.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Moussa said Turkey and Israel were sending a negative message to the region by planning the exercises. Growing military ties between Turkey and Israel have upset the Arab world–especially Syria with which neighbour Turkey has a number of disputes.
"This cooperation between Israel and Turkey is like other cooperation between two friendly states and is not against any third country," the Israeli spokesman’said.
In Damascus–A foreign ministry spokesman’said: "The announcement of the war games while US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright prepares to visit the region to rescue the peace talks is astonishing and cannot be understood."
He told Reuters the announcement was "a desperate attempt to pressure Syria to change its principled stand."
"But everybody should understand that Syria will not change its position in the peace talks with Israel which is firm."
In Cairo–Moussa told reporters–"The manoeuvres represent a negative message–they are a negative step.”
He said the exercises would top the agenda of a meeting between Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Turkish President Suleyman Demirel scheduled for later this month.
Albright–making her first tour of the Middle East next week–will visit Syria to try to break a deadlock in Syrian-Israeli peace talks .
Israeli air force pilots have trained in Turkish skies under a military agreement signed last year. The previous Islamist-led government failed to halt closer ties between Turkey’s powerful military and the Jewish state.