Syria says to hold military exercises with Turkey

Washington got uneasy with the choice.

Syria says to hold military exercises with Turkey

Syria said on Tuesday it would hold military exercises with Turkey, shortly after Turkey canceled maneuvers with Israel.

"We held our first joint land military exercise (with Turkey) last spring. And today we have agreed to do a more comprehensive, a bigger one," said Syrian Defense Minister Ali Habib, speaking at a news conference.

Turkey's ties with Israel have been strained over Israel's three-week offensive in the Gaza Strip in December and January that killed nearly 1500 Palestinians, a third of them were children.

However, Washington got uneasy with the choice.

US State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley described the decision to exclude Israel from the drill as "inappropriate".

On the other hand, neighboring Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem commended Ankara canceling of the exercises, in comments made during a high-level meeting of Turkish and Syrian ministers.

"We extremely welcome that decision. This decision is based on Turkey's approach towards Israel and reflects the way Turkey regards the Israeli attack in Gaza," Moualem told reporters in the Syrian city of Aleppo, where 10 Turkish minsters met 15 Syrian ministers to discuss energy and electricity projects.

Turkey rejected any political motive behind the decision to cancel the exercise with Israel and called on Israel to display "common sense" in their statements.

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Tuesday repeated Ankara's position that it had not singled out Israel as a political punishment but had decided to call off the international stage of the military exercises, which would have also included the United States, Italy and NATO.

But he told reporters in Aleppo: "Our sensitivity on Gaza, East Jerusalem and al-Aqsa mosque are there. If these sensitivities are taken into consideration the peace process would resume in the region."

A senior government source told Reuters Israel had been excluded because of the Gaza offensive, saying it would have been inappropriate to carry out military exercises right now.

Once on the brink of war over PKK militants, Turkey and Syria have strengthened their commercial ties and have signed a bilateral visa-free agreement.

Agencies

Last Mod: 14 Ekim 2009, 12:22
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