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Turkey Bans Israel in Joint Military Drill

Turkey has cancelled Israel's participation in a joint military exercise scheduled to take place later this week.
By Hana Levi Julian
First Publish: 10/11/2009, 9:33 AM / Last Update: 10/11/2009, 9:07 AM

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Turkey has cancelled Israel's participation in a joint military exercise scheduled to take place later this week.

The Anatolian Eagle drill was first initiated in 2001 between Turkey, Israel and the U.S.

"Anatolian Eagle Exercise will be executed as planned between October 12-23. [However], multinational participation has been postponed," said the Turkish government in a statement issued last Thursday.

The maneuvers, intended to be the sixth such exercises, were to have included NATO, U.S. and Italian forces and were scheduled to take place at the Konya Air Base in Turkey.

Turkish media reported over the weekend that Israel was informed of the decision last week.

The IDF Spokesman's Office confirmed that Ankara specifically sought to block the Israel Air Force from participating in the military exercise.

"The exercise was postponed due to a Turkish decision to change the composition of the participants and not allow the Israel Air Force to participate, a decision we were informed of only several days ago," explained the IDF Spokesman's Office in a corresponding statement.

Tensions between Israel and Turkey have heightened since Operation Cast Lead, which took place between December 27, 2008 and January 20, 2009. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been particularly hostile towards Israel, an attitude that emerged during the 2009 World Economic Forum's Davos conference when he stormed out during a debate with Israel's President Shimon Peres.

Three months later, Turkey and Syria began their first-ever joint land forces exercise in a military drill that Ankara said was meant to "boost friendship, cooperation and confidence" between the two nations. Turkey, which in the past had been characterized as "Israel's best Muslim friend in the Middle East," has slowly been warming its relations with the enemies of the Jewish State over the past year.

Israelis responded to Turkey's hostility a few months later by withholding their traditional holiday flights from the Middle Eastern nation during Passover, choosing instead to invest their tourism shekels with friendlier destinations.