Israeli army chief–Lieutenant General Dan Halutz arrived in Turkey Thursday for talks expected to focus on military cooperation. Halutz–who was welcomed with full military honors–held talks with the head of the Turkish military–General Hilmi Ozkok–and was expected to meet President Ahmet Necdet Sezer later. Turkey is Israel’s closest ally in the region and the two countries have close trade and military ties.
The two signed a cooperation agreement in 1996 and Israel has since refurbished some 200 Turkish M60 tanks and dozens of F-4 fighter planes. Turkish papers reported Thursday that talks would center on Iran–a sworn enemy of Israel–but Israeli military officials said talks would only be about military cooperation. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad recently called for Israel to be "wiped off the map."
Israel–like the United States–accuses Iran of working to build nuclear weapons–though Tehran denies such plans. Turkey–a NATO member neighboring Iran–said it regarded the presence of nuclear weapons and their proliferation as a serious security threat–reports the AP.