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Turkey confirms it barred Israel from military exercise because of Gaza war

The Guardian

Wednesday 2 ذو القعدة 1430, by Julian Borger

All the versions of this article:

  • English

Turkey’s foreign minister said yesterday that his government cancelled a planned joint military exercise with Israel in protest against that country’s offensive on Gaza ten months ago.

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

The Nato air exercises with Israel were due to begin today 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.

The Turkish foreign ministry issue a statement saying the decision was not political. However, when asked about the issue, the foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, told CNN : "We hope the situation in Gaza will be improved, that the situation will be back to the diplomatic track. And that will create a new atmosphere in Turkish-Israeli relations as well. But in the existing situation, of course, we are criticising this approach, [the] Israeli approach."

Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, expressed his outrage at the Gaza offensive, launched last December in retaliation for Hamas rocket attacks, at the World Economic Forum in Davos the following month, storming out of a session with the Israeli president, Shimon Peres.

The Israeli media noted that while Erdogan’s government had long made its displeasure clear, what was new about Israel’s exclusion from this week’s "Anatolian Eagle" exercises was the role of the Turkish military, which had been closer to Israel than the civilian government.

The Israeli cabinet had an emergency meeting over the weekend to discuss the damage to Israel’s most important military relationship in the region.

"It may be that the reality has changed and the strategic ties that we thought existed have simply ended," a senior Israeli official told Haaretz newspaper.

Israeli defence officials told the Jerusalem Post they were rethinking arms sales to Turkey and would end support for Turkey in its efforts to stop the US Congress voting to declare the mass killing of Armenians by the Ottoman Turks a genocide.

Possibly in anticipation of an diplomatic backlash, the Turkish foreign ministry statement yesterday urged Israel to exert "good sense in its approach and statements."

Israel’s "Cast Lead" offensive on Gaza, launched on 27 December, in which over 1,100 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed, was widely condemned for the high rate of civilian casualties in a densely built-up area. A report last month by the UN’s human rights council said both Israel and Hamas had committed war crimes but directed its strongest condemnation against Israel.

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