Turkey, Syria conduct military drill
By SELCAN HACAOGLU â€“ 1 day ago
ANKARA, Turkey (AP) â€” The Turkish military said it launched a joint drill with Syrian soldiers on their shared border Monday in order to improve security. Israel, an ally of Turkey and a longtime foe of Syria, expressed concern.
Military teams from Turkey and Syria were scheduled to cross the border and visit outposts during the three-day exercises, the Turkish military said. It described the drill as the "first-ever" between the countries.
There was no mention of the joint operation in Syrian media. However, government newspapers reported Monday that Syrian Defense Minister Hassan Ali Turkmani had begun a five-day visit to Turkey for talks with Turkish officials and also to attend an international defense fair in Istanbul.
In Istanbul, senior defense officials from Turkey and Syria also signed an agreement for cooperation in the defense industry, the Anatolia news agency reported.
The agency quoted Turkish Maj. Gen. Beyazit Karatas as saying the deal would lay out the legal framework for future defense industry cooperation and increase contacts between the two countries' defense ministries.
Tensions between Turkey and Syria were once high because Abdullah Ocalan, leader of Turkey's rebel Kurdistan Workers' Party, sheltered in Syria. Turkey massed troops on the Syrian border. Damascus then expelled Ocalan and he was captured in Kenya in 1999.
Antagonism between the neighbors had also mounted in the 1990s when Turkey developed military ties with Israel.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Monday that he viewed the exercise "as definitely a worrisome development."
"But I believe that the strategic relations between Israel and Turkey will prevail over Turkey's need to participate in such an exercise," Barak said.
Turkey has long been Israel's closest ally in the Muslim world, and hosted several rounds of indirect negotiations between Syria and Israel last year.
However, ties between Turkey and Israel deteriorated during the Gaza war, and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan reprimanded Israeli President Shimon Peres over civilian casualties in Gaza at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
Turkish defense ties with Israel include training agreements and purchases from Israel worth hundreds of millions of dollars.