CAIRO (Reuter)–Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Moussa said Tuesday it would be better for Turkey and Israel to discuss peace than plan joint naval exercises.
Turkish Deputy Chief of Staff General Cevik Bir held talks with Israeli Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai earlier this week to discuss joint naval exercises with Israel and the United States in the eastern Mediterranean.
"Talking about peace is better for safeguarding stability in the region than military exercises," Moussa told reporters. "We are at the stage of protecting and saving the peace process and any measures that might be misunderstood are best avoided."
Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians have been on hold since the Jewish state began to build a settlement in Arab East Jerusalem–which it seized in the 1967 Middle East war.
Egypt became the first Arab state to sign a peace treaty with Israel in 1979 but it has been critical of the Jewish state since right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came to power last year.
"The Turkish-Israeli exercises are of great concern not only to Egypt but to many other countries in the Middle East," Moussa said. "If they carry a message to anyone in the region then that message and the ensuing reactions are all negative."
A close aide to Turkish Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan said on Friday he saw no need for joint naval exercises with Israel. Iraq and Lebanon have both expressed concern over the planned exercises.
But the Turkish Foreign Ministry has said the naval exercises–set to take place some time in mid-year–do not pose a threat to neighboring countries.