Barak: Turkey central actor in region, Israel should avoid hostility
Following Turkey's cancellation of their joint military exercise with Israel, Jerusalem is trying to defuse flames. Defense minister says relations with Turkey are strategic: No place for getting pulled into fiery statements against them. Turkey: Cancellation not political
Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Monday during a closed-door discussion, "In spite of the ups and downs, Turkey continues to be a central figure in our region. There is no place for getting drawn into fiery statements against them."
According to Barak, "The relations between Israel and Turkey are strategic and have existed for dozens of years."
The cabinet ministers discussed Israeli-Turkish relations. Consultations were also held in the Prime Minister's Office and in the Foreign Ministry. Jerusalem is trying to defuse the tensions created by Turkey's recent barring of Israel's participation in an upcoming NATO exercise slated to take place in central Turkey.
In the weekly cabinet meeting, Industry, Trade, and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer criticized Israel's harsh statements against Turkey, saying, "I am not satisfied with some of the Israeli leadership's criticism of Turkey. We and Turkey have an important and strategic set of interests. We must act with the utmost sensitivity so that the gloomy forecasts do not materialize."
A senior official said to Ynet, "Things are not simple, but we intend to examine the process and avoid a crisis. Israel and Turkey have a broad mutual base of trust and partnership of the highest strategic level that have continued since 2000 and even before that at an additional peak in the 90s. The relations are based on deep understandings and agreements. We are examining whether this is a continued process of deterioration since last January, but this must be done quietly. This is what we are doing currently."
Another senior political official clarified that the talks with Ankara are still underway. The goal is to examine future actions to be taken and to give expression to Israel's sentiments following the cancellation of the military exercise.
"We have complaints. There are things that need to be said, but, ultimately, Israel must not give up on the connection with Turkey. This space cannot be filled from Israel's perspective. Turkey also knows that Israel is important to them in their process of acceptance within the West, including membership in the European Union. Despite the difficulty, there is cautious optimism," said the official.
Turkey: Cancellation not political
Turkey's Foreign Ministry denies an international military exercise was canceled over opposition to Israel's participation.
Israeli defense officials have said the air drills in Turkey, which were supposed to be held this week and include the US and NATO, were scrapped over Turkish opposition to Israel.
Turkey's Foreign Ministry said Monday that the reason for the cancellation was not political. It said drills were postponed after Turkey conferred with participants, but did not give a reason. The ministry urged Israel to exert "good sense in its approach and statements."
The Associated Press contributed to this report