Cooling of Turkish-Israeli relations can have impact on Turkey's relations with West

Arab World Materials 16 October 2009 08:54 (UTC +04:00)

Azerbaijan, Baku, Oct. 15 / Trend , U.Sadikhova/

Deterioration of the Turkish-Israeli relations has been caused by Ankara's rapprochement with the Syrian government, which will strengthen Turkey's role in resolving conflicts in the Middle East, analysts believe.

However, some experts also believe that cooling of the Turkish-Israeli relations could affect Turkey's relations with the European Union and the United States.

"Turkey has to be careful because it is a main vision for turkey to be seen as a mutual force in the region," Turkey/Cyprus Project Director for the International Crisis Group, Hugh Pope said to Trend in a telephone conversation from Istanbul.

He said Turkey, first, should remain a country adhering to the regional balance in dealing with conflicts.

"Turkey has to maintain diplomatic and basic relations with Israel, respecting the balance," added Pope.

On Monday, Turkish Foreign Ministry announced the postponement of the international exercise "Anatolian Eagle", scheduled for this week, due to the Israeli Air Force's participation in it on a par with Turkey and the United States.

Western and Israeli media commented on Turkey's decision to cancel the maneuvers due to its unwillingness to present its air space to Israel as a response to a ground and air military operation of the Israeli army in Gaza last December - early January 2009.

But Prime Minister Recep Tayyib Erdogan on Wednesday said in his interview with "al-Arabiya" TV channel that the refusal of military exercises with Israel was caused by "the desire and the will of the Turkish people," Anadolu news agency reported.

Turkish analyst on the Middle East, Mustafa Ozcan believes that problems in relations between the two strategic allies - Turkey and Israel, began last year when former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert promised the Turkish government not to attack the Gaza Strip.

"Attacking Gaza, he [Olmert] has put the Turkish government in a difficult position, and Prime Minister Erdogan is inclined to consider Mr Olmert's statement mendacious," Ozcan said to Trend over telephone from Turkey.

At the same time, Turkey began a rapprochement with Syria, said Ozcan.

Establishment of closer ties between Damascus and Ankara and the high level strategic cooperation between the two countries could become a reason for Turkey to weaken cooperation with Israel, analysts believe.

On the background of refusal from "Anatolian Eagle" air exercise, Tuesday, foreign ministers of Turkey and Syria at a joint cabinet meeting in Aleppo, announced holding military exercises with the participation of the Air Force of both countries, Aljazeera reported.

Ozcan believes that amid the tense relations between Turkey and Israel, Ankara strengthens cooperation with Arab countries. Domestic policy of Turkey in recent years has strengthened, and foreign policy has found concrete form, the Turkish political analyst said.

If earlier Turkey had to look for something suitable for its foreign policy, but now it has a clear direction in the foreign policy, believes Ozcan.

Israeli analysts also believe that Turkey is moving away from Israel for the greater rapprochement with Syria and Iran.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davudoglu said that "Turkey and Syria are at a turning point in their history." He said the Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan would visit Damascus in early December.

Turkish policy reflects larger foreign policy orientation in Turkey which prefers to be closer to the Middle Eastern countries rather than being part of the West, Director of the Israeli Begin-Sadat (BESA) Center for Strategic Studies, Ehpraim Inbar told Trend .

The strategic alliance with Turkey which is secular was important for Israel, said Eytan Gilboa, Professor of International Communication.

"This way Israel was able to have relations with Muslim country and to get some help of Turkey in the talks with Syria. There were talks to deploying the Turkish forces in Gaza," former Advisor to Prime Minister and Defense Ministry of Israel, Gilboa told Trend in a telephone conversation. "But now it is impossible."

He does not rule out that Ankara's rapprochement with Syria and Iran will substantially damage their position in Europe and in the US, Gilboa believes.

Professor at the Lebanese University and Expert on the Turkish Politics, Mohammed Noureddine also shared the view that Turkey's rapprochement with Syria and Iran could damage Ankara's relations with European countries and the United States.

The White House on Wednesday issued a statement which criticized Turkey's refusal of the military exercise because of Israel, given that the U.S. military aircraft were also to take part in them, the Israeli newspaper Jerusalem Post reported.

The experts were unanimous in their opinion that the relations between Turkey and Israel will not return to the previous level.

The time of strategic and military partnership of Turkey and Israel is over and it can hardly be returned, Noureddine said to Trend over telephone from Beirut.

"All that is happening [between Turkey and Israel] is into the hands of Arab countries. However, given the weakness of their position, they can unlikely make use of it," said Noureddine.

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