Israelis stress importance of links with Turkey

SEVERAL top Israeli political analysts have stressed the importance they attach to their country’s close co-operation with Turkey.

Speaking to the Cyprus News Agency (CNA) in Tel Aviv, Professor Ephraim Inbar of the Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies at Bar Ilan University said his own personal pro-Turkish stance was justified when Turkey’s regional power was taken into consideration, along with joint Israeli-Turkish interests and their common enmity of Syria.

Israel-Turkey ties go back a long way, he also noted, adding that in the United States, the Jewish and Turkish lobbies worked together in promoting the Turkish perspective.

Professor Shai Feldman, Director of the Jaffee Centre for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University, told CNA Israel would shift its focus to the Mediterranean area with the subsiding of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

“Cyprus has been an issue on the foreign policy agenda, but we see Cyprus in more of a bilateral relations context than in a wider context,” he said.

He said that Cyprus was also under British influence to an extent, but added that the US was engaged in the island’s affairs although it did “not see opportunity for dramatic success in Cyprus at present, whereas when the US dealt with Israel and Palestinians, they could score points”.

Feldman added that he thought the US might intervene in the event of a crisis on the island, for example if the S-300 missiles were to arrive.

Professor Moshe Maoz of the Truman Institute of Peace Studies at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem echoed Ephraim’s comments about Israeli connections with Turkey, saying his country “has interests in co-operating with Turkey as it can help us iron out differences with other countries”.

However, he also warned that the alliance should not be at the expense of those with Arab states, as it was here that Israel’s priorities should lie.

Israel, he said, should “work for peace without relinquishing its ties with Turkey”.

Cyprus-Israel relations have taken a beating this year, after Israel and Turkey renewed their joint defence agreement, and after claims that Israel had allowed Turkey to carry out anti-S-300 exercises on Israeli territory.

Israeli President Ezer Weizman, who was in Ankara this week for Turkey’s 75th anniversary celebrations, arrives in Cyprus on Monday for a three-day official visit.