Tension felt in military ties

ISTANBUL - The repercussions of Turkish-Israeli tension that has gradually escalated since Israel’s invasion of Gaza continue to emanate in both diplomatic and military relations.

Israeli and Turkish officials are engaged in behind-the-scenes discussions aimed at easing tensions, daily Haaretz reported yesterday. Shalom Turjeman, an adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Olmert, is said to be holding talks with an aide of Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan, in an attempt to improve relations between Jerusalem and Ankara.

"Israel has no intention of deepening the crisis and we are trying to calm things down," a source from the Israeli Prime Minister's Office told Haaretz yesterday. "Relations with Turkey are a strategic asset to both countries and we are interested that they remain as such." Turkey's NTV television reported that Israeli Foreign Ministry officials held a telephone conversation with Turkish diplomats to calm the tension. Diplomatic sources in Ankara neither confirmed nor denied the secret talks and only said: "We have an ongoing dialogue all the time."

Meanwhile, Israel is considering rejecting a number of requests by Turkey to purchase advanced military platforms from the Jewish state after ties between the two countries became strained over the latest Gaza operation, the Jerusalem Post reported yesterday.

Several Turkish requests recently submitted to Israel's Defense Ministry will need to be reviewed due to the change in political ties between Jerusalem and Ankara, Israeli officials told the daily. The officials would not reveal which new military platforms Turkey had requested.

"Turkey is eyeing moderate Arab countries and is hoping to strengthen its ties with them," one senior defense official told the Israeli daily. "Just like we don't sell advanced military platforms to Jordan and Egypt, we may decide not to sell to Turkey."

The defense establishment is also concerned that the diplomatic crisis with Turkey may lead Ankara to annul an arrangement allowing the Israel Air Force to train and fly in Turkish airspace, it reported.

"No one knows yet how this will affect our relationship on a defense level," one official said. "We need to wait to see how this plays out," he said. Sources in defense industries, however, told the paper they hoped the crisis with Ankara would pass and would not have a negative impact on sales to Turkey.

"Despite soured diplomatic ties, there are very good relations between the two militaries," said one official. "Israel has several contracts with Turkey that have been signed, and there is no reason to believe they will not be upheld," he added.
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