18 April 2014, Friday
Today's Zaman

Turkey and Syria conduct military drill, Israel disturbed

28 April 2009, Tuesday /TODAY'S ZAMAN WITH WIRES
Turkey and Syria began an unprecedented, three-day joint military exercise on their border yesterday, a step farther in their ever-expanding cooperation, which disturbed Syria's arch-foe Israel.

The Turkish military announced on Sunday it would hold its first drill with Syria this week, using ground forces in a border area. The drill is due to last into Wednesday. "Today we see a Syrian-Turkish drill, which is certainly a troubling development," Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak told reporters on Monday. "But I believe that the strategic ties between Israel and Turkey will overcome even Turkey's need to take part in this drill." Israel has extensive defense ties with Turkey, a NATO member and one of the few Muslim nations to have built an alliance with the Jewish state.

The Israeli and Turkish air forces and navies have held joint exercises. Despite the cooperation in the area of defense, however, tensions occasionally flare up in the political field as Turkey is also a harsh critic of Israel's treatment of the Palestinians.

Tensions between Turkey and Syria were once high because Abdullah Öcalan, the now-jailed leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), was based in Syria. Damascus then expelled Öcalan and he was captured in Kenya in 1999. Relations began to warm following the coming to power of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) in Turkey in 2002. The joint military drill is the latest step as Turkey and Syria build and expand cooperation in the area of defense.

"The aim of the exercise is to boost friendship, cooperation and confidence between the two countries' land forces, and to increase the ability of border troops to train and work together," the Turkish military said in the statement on Sunday. It said teams from each country will cross the border and visit outposts as part of the three-day exercises to improve security.

The two countries are also planning to sign a letter of intent giving the green light for cooperation in the defense industry. The letter of intent was expected to be signed on the sidelines of the 9th International Defense Industry Fair (IDEF'09), which opened in İstanbul on Monday.

Turkish defense industry sources have told Today's Zaman that Turkey and Syria were not to enter immediately into cooperation in arms production, underlining that the letter of intent was a sign of the level that political relations had reached between Turkey and Syria.

As a country that maintains close ties with both Israel and Syria, Turkey announced last year that it was mediating peace talks between the two countries. Following four rounds, the Turkish-mediated talks collapsed in January when Israel launched a deadly offensive on Gaza.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Sunday he was willing to talk peace with Syria if there would be no preconditions. It was a response to Syria, which recently said it would be willing to resume indirect peace talks with the new Israeli government as long as they focused on a complete withdrawal from the Golan Heights. Israel captured the strategic plateau from Syria in the Six Day War of June 1967.

"I'd be glad to negotiate with Syria this evening, but without preconditions," Lieberman told Israel Radio. "They say, first go back to the '67 lines and give up the Golan. If we agree to that, what is there to negotiate?" he said. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem declined to comment on Lieberman's remarks.

DIPLOMACY  Other Titles
KKTC pushing for Cyprus deal before end of this year
MEPs question EU Commission over EU funds to Turkey
Greece rejects extradition of leading DHKP/C member
Pro-gov't dailies report conflicting news on leaked audio on Syria
US warns against damage to ties over recurring media claims
KRG's Barzani visits Ankara for talks with Erdoğan
Villagers file suit against ministry over stray bullets from Syria
Chief ombudsman laments low implementation of KDK recommendations
Turkey says deeply concerned over events in Ukraine
Chinese deputy foreign minister in Ankara for inter-delegation meeting
‘Turkey will not remain silent over 'genocide resolution' if adopted’
Russia welcomes Turkey's assurances on observance of Montreux terms
Poland: NATO should send troops to east Europe, ignore Russia's objections
US looks to Turkey to uphold checks and balances
Dubai may be a hub for Turkey and Iran's illicit transactions
US House Speaker meets senior Turkish officials in Ankara
EU Minister Çavuşoğlu says Füle's comments on Turkey ‘balanced'
US Ambassador Ricciardone has talks with AK Party officials
Turkey's honorary consuls meet to discuss foreign policy
Iran to build cultural center in the heart of İstanbul
Loğoğlu: No Turkish institution in US works against Turkey
Erdoğan will further polarize Turkey as presidential election approaches
European Union concerned about rule of law in Turkey
Turkey seeks to restore dialogue with Serbia with FM's visit
Turkish Rights groups slam Egypt over execution ruling