Monday, February 16, 2009

Chill Settles Into Turkey-Israel Relations

Los Angeles Times, February 15, 2009 - ....In the wake of Israel's 22-day military operation, which left hundreds of Palestinian civilians dead, a distinct chill has settled into its long-cordial relations with Turkey, by far the Jewish state's closest ally in the Muslim world.

In the latest sign of continuing tensions, Turkey on Saturday summoned Israel's envoy for a dressing-down at the Foreign Ministry over remarks made by a senior Israeli commander about Turkish policies toward its Kurdish and Armenian ethnic minorities -- both hot-button topics here.

Turkey's powerful military weighed in as well, saying that published remarks by Maj. Gen. Avi Mizrahi suggesting that repressive Turkish policies left its government in no position to criticize the Gaza offensive could even call the two countries' military relationship into question.

"The comments have been assessed to be at the extent that the national interests between the two countries could be damaged," the army's general staff said in a statement carried by the state-run Anatolia news agency.

Turkey's unusually close military alliance with Israel, including regular joint training exercises and rare privileges such as the use of Turkish airspace for training exercises, has yielded solid strategic gains for the government in Ankara, helping cement its status as a trusted NATO ally and a moderate Muslim state with aspirations to join the European Union.

Commercial ties, too, are robust; trade between the two countries amounts to nearly $3.5 billion a year. But the close inter-government links sometimes seem to run counter to popular sentiment, particularly in recent weeks.....

See also: Commentary: Why is Palestine a Big Deal for Turkish Diplomacy? - Bulent Aras (The Daily Star, February 16, 2009)

Israeli Remarks Anger Turkey (Al Jazeera English, February 15, 2009)

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