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Strained ties with Israel frustrating Turkey’s request for advanced U.S. drones

Special to WorldTribune.com

WASHINGTON — The U.S. military’s European Command said that the government of Turkish
Prime Minister Recep Erdogan was growing increasingly restless amid demands
for an expanded defense alliance with the United States.

Eucom said Ankara was seeking advanced combat platforms from Washington, including the
Predator unmanned aerial vehicle.

A Predator drone firing a Hellfire missile.  /U.S. Air Force

A Predator drone firing a Hellfire missile. /U.S. Air Force

The report, submitted by Eucom chief Adm. James Stavridis, said the U.S.
military was concerned over Turkey’s poor relationship with Israel.
Officials said Erdogan has banned Israel from military exercises, including
those with NATO states.

“Turkey’s eroding relationship with Israel bears special emphasis,” the
report said. “Resumption of good relations between these two U.S. allies,
and willingness to facilitate these relations on a military-to-military
level, remain a priority for European Command.”

“Turkey’s status as a stable, democratic nation, its sizable security
resources, and its influence as a regional power broker combine to make this NATO ally a critical component in achieving U.S. regional objectives,” Eucom

“In return, Turkey is raising its expectations for U.S. cooperation
and partnership, specifically with access to high-end Foreign Military
Sales, cooperation on counter-terrorism activity, and increased leadership
opportunities in NATO and coalition political/military structures.”

In a report to the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 19, Eucom
cited Turkish cooperation with the United States on a range of regional
issues. The report said Eucom and the Turkish General Staff were engaged in
a dialogue that included the Sunni revolt in neighboring Syria.

But officials said Erdogan has become frustrated by the U.S. refusal to
supply a range of combat assets, particularly Predator. They cited State
Department objections to the sale of Predator, which could be fitted with
air-to-ground missiles. Instead, Washington has urged Ankara to wait for the
development of Predator XP, designed solely as a reconnaissance platform.

Over the last few years, Eucom has restored cooperation with Turkey’s
military. The two sides drafted a memorandum of understanding meant to
define new areas of cooperation, including special forces.

“After a two-year hiatus to develop a new memorandum of understanding
with Turkey, we are once again working closely with our Turkish SOF
counterparts,” the report said. “The establishment of the MoU with Turkish
Army Special Forces will greatly improve the U.S.-Turkish bilateral SOF
relationship, enabling exchanges that will continue to pay strong dividends
for both countries in the near future. Special Operations Command Europe key
leader engagements with CT forces from the Turkish Ministry of the Interior
have also increased potential for important future cooperation.”

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