Turkey and Saudi Arabia will hold joint military drills as part of a decision to strategically cooperate against common threats, sources have told daily Hurriyet. However, the state-run Anadolu Agency quoted military sources as denying such a planning.
Turkish Chief of General Staff Hulusi Akar's visit to Saudi Arabia in late January, which had coincided with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu's official visit to the country, brought about a decision to hold joint military exercises with the participation of the two countries' armies, military sources told Hurriyet.
Sources speaking on condition of anonymity said a decision for "the strategic cooperation against common threats" had been made during the meeting in Riyadh.
Still, military sources said the Feb. 10 media reports, which said such a joint drill would be held, did not reflect the truth, Anadolu Agency said later on Feb. 10. The agency quoted the sources as also denying that the Turkish military would attend a Saudi-led exercise, admitting that a deal was made for joint military training.
The visit was not to discuss the coalition against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant's (ISIL) facilities in Syria but rather conducted to strengthen mutual ties between the two states and armies, according to the sources speaking to Hürriyet.
The "Islam army," which Saudi Arabia had announced to be formed on Dec. 15, 2015, consisting of 34 Sunni Islam states, to fight terrorism amid a continuing war on jihadists in the Middle East and elsewhere, was not on the agenda of the meetings in Riyadh.
The visit coming right before Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates declaring they were ready to send troops and special forces to Syria under the U.S.-led anti-ISIL coalition was also a coincidence, the sources said, adding Turkey was distancing itself from both of the issues.
"The togetherness that is being mentioned [by Saudi Arabia] cannot actually be called an 'Islam army.' Even if there is such an initiative, Turkey will not be a part of its military branch," said a senior Turkish official.