Israel-Turkey Pact Angers Arabs: U.S. Friends, Foes May Work Together

Article excerpt

An unprecedented military pact between Turkey and Israel is rattling Arab leaders from Cairo to Damascus.

Public details of the agreement are not clear. But experts say it could lead to a broad strategic realignment of the Middle East along the lines of old ethnic animosities. It also could push such U.S. allies as Egypt and Greece into partnership with anti-American states Iran and Syria.

Turkey is playing down the significance of the deal. A Turkish Embassy official in Washington yesterday described it as an agreement to cooperate on military training.

There have been published reports that Turkey will open its airspace to Israeli aircraft and allow its airports to be used for emergency landings. An announcement said joint air exercises will begin in the next few weeks.

The embassy official confirmed there will be an exchange of military personnel but said he does not think the pact allows Israeli warplanes to fly over Turkey.

Arab governments and newspapers yesterday continued to condemn the pact. Some editorials threatened Arab retaliation against Turkey by cooperating with its archrival, Greece.

Greek Foreign Minister Theodore Pangalas told The Washington Times yesterday that Greece, a NATO member, is considering a military alliance with Syria, which is on the U.S. list of states sponsoring terrorism.

"Why shouldn't we? We don't have to apologize to anybody about that," he said.

Greece and Syria "are good friends and allies," Mr. Pangalas said. "We [work] together with them on almost all international cooperation issues."

Mr. Pangalas refused to say whether Greece is in fact negotiating a defense pact with Syria.

Iran, Syria and Egypt all expressed strong concern yesterday over the reports of the Israel-Turkey pact.

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati told Turkish Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Toygan that Tehran is "closely watching" military cooperation between Turkey and Israel.

Mr. Toygan said Turkish airspace would not be used for training by the Israeli air force, Radio Tehran reported.

"Ankara has never intended to create tension in the region, especially not with Iran," the radio report quoted Mr. Toygan as telling Mr. Velayati. "The issue was exaggerated by the world mass media. …