Turkey, Israel, Jordan hold search and rescue maneuvers

Lale Kemal, Today’s Zaman – 16 Nov 2009

Turkey, Jordan and Israel reportedly held joint search and rescue maneuvers almost two weeks ago in Ankara’s Gölbaşı district at the Special Forces Command’s training range.

This signals an improvement in the currently strained Turkish-Israeli relations, as Ankara excluded Israel at the last minute from the Anatolian Eagle international maneuvers which were planned to take place between Oct. 13 and 23 in Turkey’s central Anatolian town of Konya because of Israel’s assault on Gaza against Hamas militants early this year which killed more than 1,500 civilians. A Turkish TV series named “Ayrılık” (Separation), which contained anti-Israeli elements, further fuelled the deterioration in ties.

In protest over the Turkish exclusion of Israel from the exercises at the last minute, the United States and Italy also withdrew from the maneuvers.

Reliable sources told Today’s Zaman that due to the nature of the search and rescue operations held over three days in the Gölbaşı district, jet fighters were not used in the maneuvers.

During his remarks to the media last month, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu highlighted Turkey’s sensitivity about the fact that Israeli jets used during Gaza assault were also going to take part in the maneuvers, hinting at the reason for Turkey’s exclusion of Israel from the exercises.

In a related development, technical problems that have caused a more than two-year-long delay in the delivery of Israel’s Heron unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to Turkey have reportedly been overcome. According to the local defense industry sources, the Turkish and Israeli sides are now negotiating over the amount of compensation to be paid for the Israeli delay of Heron UAVs.

In another sign of repairing the damaged relations between Turkey and Israel, Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer of Israel, who was formerly the defense minister, is scheduled to visit Turkey on Nov. 24.

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