Barak’s visit defuses tensions between Turkey and Israel

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Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s visit to Ankara over the weekend somewhat relaxed the confrontation between the two countries that flared up last week when the Turkish ambassador to Jerusalem was snubbed by Israeli officials who summoned him to protest a television serial aired in Turkey. Although President Abdullah Gul, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and Chief of Staff General Ilker Basbug absented themselves from the capital, Barak, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and Oguz Celikkol, the Turkish ambassador to Israel gave warm photo-ops for the journalists during the visit.

Barak said Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon had “expressed his apologies for the improper behavior” shown to Celikkol last week and emphasized that the relations between the two countries will continue “according to universally accepted diplomatic rules.”

Barak also met with his Turkish counterpart, Vecdi Gonul and after the meeting the Turkish minister said during their deliberations they reached complete agreement of opinion that the tensions and confrontations in the Middle East should be eased for the sake of stability and peace in the region.

Reminding that Turkey was one of the first countries that extended recognition to the state of Israel, Gonul said, “Cooperation between our two countries in many fields is continuing on a satisfactory level.”

“In the field of defense cooperation we have completed 13 projects and six more projects are still continuing,” said Gonul. He listed some of the projects as the modernization of F4 and F5 Turkish Air Force fighter aircraft and M60 Turkish Army tanks. Turkey’s plans to develop unmanned reconnaissance planes with Israel have also reached a new phase, Turkish defense minister said. He explained that certain systems on these planes are jointly manufactured by Israel and Turkey.

Answering a question by an Israeli reporter that Iran’s nuclear plans are creating concern in Israel, Gonul said that every country should have the right to develop its energy resources, “But, he added, Turkey does not want a bomb next to it or next to one of its neighbors.”

Barak pointed out that Turkey and Israel have common interests, and said “As long as these interests exist we shall continue to be strategic partners.”

“We hope that our relations will be strengthened further. Regarding our relations there has been some developments, good or bad, but we were able to leave them behind for the sake of stability and peace in the region. I believe that if the other countries of the region were to act like Turkey and Israel, they would contribute greatly to the peace effort,” said Barak.

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