Turkey bans Israel from air drill because of Gaza

By Jessica Elgot, October 12, 2009
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Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu

Israel was deliberately excluded from a multinational air force exercise by Turkey because of concerns over Gaza, the Turkish Foreign Minister has confirmed.

The 11-day air force drill, which would have included Israel, the US, Italy, Holland and pilots from other NATO countries, was due to take place near Konya, in central Turkey.

But Turkey cancelled the exercise, which was due to start today, because it did not want Israel to participate.
The Israeli military said in a statement that the drill was delayed indefinitely "because of Turkey's decision to change the list of participating countries, thus excluding Israel”.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said: “We hope that the situation in Gaza will be improved, that the situation will be back to the diplomatic track and that will create a new atmosphere in Turkish-Israeli relations as well.”

“But in the existing situation, of course, we are criticising this approach, the Israeli approach."

Israeli leaders later held an emergency meeting to discuss the diplomatic crisis at the Foreign Ministry, led by Ministry Director General Yossi Gal.

The ties between Israel and Turkey have traditionally been strong, with Ankara hosting talks between Syria and Israel last year.

But Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has raised his concerns over the Israeli offensive in Gaza in the past, personally confronting Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu over the number of civilian casualties during Operation Cast Lead, calling it “savagery”.

Last updated: 3:37pm, October 14 2009