Some experts believe Israel has a case. "Israel is justified in its concerns. I think this is a wrong strategic choice on the part of the Turkish government," said Professor Ifraim Inbar, director of Begin-Sadat, or BESA, Center for Strategic Studies, speaking to the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review yesterday.
Brig. Gen. Beyazıt Karataş, Turkish defense ministry deputy undersecretary for Technology and Coordination Air, said relations with Syria on every level are of great importance, speaking at Monday’s defense signing ceremony at the 9th International Defense Industry Fair in Istanbul.
"The deal we are signing will form the legal basis of defense cooperation between the defense ministries of the two countries," he said. Turkey and Israel have cooperated closely on military matters since the military training deal they signed in 1996.
Nihat Ali Özcan, a senior researcher at the Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey, or TEPAV, however, said the strategic consequences of the deal and the three-day military exercise that began on the Turkish-Syrian border Monday would be inconsequential.
"Turkey has similar deals with more than 60 countries. Besides, the exercise involved at most a total of 60 men from both sides. If it is held only at the platoon level as reported, then really it holds only a symbolic value against smugglers and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, operating along the border," he said. Teams from each country are to cross the border and visit an outpost as part of three-day exercises to improve security.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, however, had said the exercise is "definitely a worrisome" development. "We have nothing to add more than what the defense minister said," stated officials from the Israeli Embassy in Ankara speaking to the Daily News yesterday.