ANKARA–According to the Los Angeles Times–US–Israeli and Turkish fighter jets staged mock dogfights over central Turkey on Monday as part of what Israeli officials call the most important military exercises ever held by the three countries.
The maneuvers–called Anatolian Eagle–are being conducted over the central province of Konya–and are expected to continue until June 29.
"That these exercises should be proceeding as planned is the strongest possible message that Turkey is not afraid to be our friend even with the resumption of the [Palestinian] intifada," said an Israeli official familiar with the exercises who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Encouraged by the United States–Turkey and Israel signed a military training and cooperation agreement in 1996. Turkey’s first Islamic-leg government sealed the accord.
Accusations ensued from the two countries’ Arab neighbors and Iran–including charges that the alliance was directed against the Muslim world.
But Turkish policymakers say the alliance with the Jewish state boosted Turkey’s strategic value immeasurably in the eyes of its Western allies. Perceptions of the importance faded after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Ties between the two countries have expanded in recent years to include trade and tourism. Israel has signed a $700-million deal to upgrade Turkey’s squadron of US manufactured F-4 fighter jets. And talks are underway for the sale to Israel of water from southern Turkey’s Manavgat River–which would be shipped via the Mediterranean.
The joint air exercises follow naval search-and-rescue operations held in January off the Israeli coast. Unlike previous simulations–however–Anatolian Eagle is reportedly offensive in nature.