Turkey to sign military pact with Egypt, boycotting Israel

8 Sep

by Zvi Bar’el

Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz

7 September 2011

Article abridged

A military and economic alliance with Egypt is set to be signed by Turkish prime minister Recep Erdogan (left). The deal should be clinched when Erdogan visits Cairo next Monday – the first such visit paid by a Turkish prime minister in 15 years.

The alliance is not intended as “revenge” against Israel. Erdogan’s intention is to extend Turkey’s influence to areas it has not reached in past decades.

Under former psresident Hosni Mubarak, Egypt rejected Turkish overtures. Mubarak viewed Erdogan as an interloper in regions that were under Egypt’s, and Saudi Arabia’s, influence. The new Egyptian government, however, seems eager to develop economic and strategic ties with Turkey.

After keeping mum on the subject of sanctions on Israel for three days, Erdogan has made his position clear: He believes that Israel-Turkey relations are not a personal matter between himself and Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but rather a Turkish national interest.

Erdogan decided on Tuesday to reap the political profit from his stand against Israel, and announced to reporters that Turkey is suspending military and commercial relations with it. Additional sanctions, he suggested, could be implemented, and Turkish warships will be seen “more frequently” in Mediterranean waters.

Erdogan declared: “Israel has always acted as a spoiled child in response to UN resolutions pertaining to it. Israel assumes that it can continue to act like a spoiled child, and evade punishment.”

Subsequently Erdogan’s office clarified that private trade relations are not subsumed by the sanctions. These commercial ties are valued at three billion dollars a year. Instead, military agreements are being suspended. This clarification was issued after Turkish businessmen demanded to know whether they are being required to cut off ties with Israel, lest they face legal punishment.

The alacrity with which Turkey reached its decision to impose sanctions derives partly from the fact that it believes Israel is responsible for leaking the UN’s report on the flotilla to Gaza. Turkish sources insist that Israel made a U-turn regarding the UN investigation, since it originally demanded that the report’s release be deferred.

“We agreed to defer release of the report for a few weeks, but not for six months, as Netanyahu wanted,” one senior Turkish official explained. “We could have discussed issues regarding the text’s formulation, and even forged an agreement, but Israel’s leak of the document broke all the rules.”

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