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Thursday, September 8, 2011     GET REAL

Turkey's Erdogan suspends all military ties
with Israel

ANKARA — Turkey has announced a halt to military relations with Israel.


Officials said Prime Minister Recep Erdogan ordered a suspension of all Turkish military activities with Israel. They said this included the acquisition and delivery of Israeli platforms for Turkey's military.

"Trade ties, military ties regarding defense industry ties, we are completely suspending them," Erdogan said. "This process will be followed by different measures."

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Erdogan's suspension was announced on Sept. 6 after Israel refused to apologize and compensate for the death of eight Turks in the Israel Navy interception of a ship headed for the Gaza Strip in May 2010. A United Nations report said the Israeli interception was legal although determined that excessive force was used, Middle East Newsline reported.

Officials said it was not clear whether Erdogan's suspension of military activities with Israel would harm Turkey. They said Turkey has already completed major weapons deals with the Jewish state, including the delivery of unmanned aerial vehicles and main battle tank upgrade.

From 1996 through 2011, Israel was said to have sold Turkey about $2.5 billion worth of military platforms and weapons. The last major deal ended about a year ago when the state-owned Israel Military Industries completed the upgrade of 170 M-60A3 main battle tanks in a nearly $700 million project for the Turkish Army.

A key Turkish military requirement has been Israeli UAVs. The military has ordered 10 Heron UAV medium-altitude, long-endurance platforms in a $183 million deal with Israel Aerospace Industries. All 10 platforms were delivered, one of which crashed in early 2011.

"We don't care if [the defense trade suspension] it costs $15 million or $150 million," Erdogan said. "We will not allow anyone to walk all over our honor."

Officials said the military had been examining the prospect of also ordering Israeli armor to enhance protection of combat vehicles. They said most of the army's combat vehicle fleet was vulnerable to attacks by the Kurdish Workers Party.

"This is still very new and the situation is fluid," a senior Turkish defense official was quoted by the Hurriyet daily as saying. "We need to clarify several things."

For his part, Erdogan accused Israel of failing to honor the Heron UAV project. The prime minister said IAI was not delivering Herons sent by the Turkish military for maintenance in Israel.

"They are not loyal to agreements between us in the defense industry," Erdogan said. "There might be problems, you may not be speaking to each other, but you have to fulfill your responsibility under international agreements."

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