(AFP) – Oct 14, 2009
WARSAW — Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak Wednesday downplayed a spike in tensions with ally Turkey, despite Ankara's decision to call off a joint military exercise.
"I think that basically there are ups and downs for all different reasons in relations. But our relationship with Turkey is long-standing, important and strategic in nature," Barak said during a visit to Poland.
"Basically, it was delayed, not cancelled," he insisted.
Barak said he doubted the development would cause long-term damage to Israeli-Turkish relations.
The Turkish army said last week that the October 12-23 international section of the "Anatolian Eagle" air exercises, carried out annually since 2001 in central Turkey, had been "postponed."
The Israeli army said the exercises were put off after Ankara excluded Israel, a decision which, according to media reports, prompted the United States to pull out.
Washington on Tuesday dubbed Turkey's decision "inappropriate."
Turkey had Monday criticised those who drew "political conclusions" from the decision to call off the exercise and urged Israeli officials to show "common sense."
Mainly Muslim, non-Arab Turkey has been Israel's chief regional ally since the two signed a military cooperation deal in 1996.
But Turkish criticism of Israel has mounted since Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Justice and Development Party, the moderate offshoot of a now-banned Islamist movement, came to power in Ankara in 2002.
Ties took a sharp downturn in January when Turkey launched an unprecedented barrage of criticism against Israel over its military assault on the Gaza Strip.
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