Hagel to Seek Israeli-Turkish Military Cooperation

ANKARA (Reuters/Hamodia) -

Erdogan Postpones Gaza Trip

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will try to rekindle military cooperation between Turkey and Israel in his first visit to the two countries since taking office, a Turkish official said on Wednesday.

Hagel, whose visit to Turkey will take place close to his Israel trip set for April 21-23, will also discuss regional issues, the official said. Turkey has borders with war-ravaged Syria, as well as with Iran and Iraq.

The U.S. Embassy in Ankara said it would not comment on any potential visits.

During his visit, the official said, Hagel would try to encourage both countries to restart military cooperation, which used to include maneuvers and defense contracts.

Apart from relations with Israel, the civil war in Syria is likely to feature prominently in discussions.

Meanwhile on Tuesday, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that he will probably postpone a trip to the Gaza Strip planned for April to sometime after his May 16 meeting with President Barack Obama at the White House, Turkish daily Hurriyet reported.

“It will probably take place after my visit to America,” the Turkish prime minster stated. He has announced plans for such a trip before, but each time cancelled.

Erdogan announced his intention to visit Gaza shortly after receiving Israel’s apology for the death of nine Turks during the 2010 IDF raid of the Mavi Marmara.

While avoiding direct reference to the Erdogan trip, State Department spokeswoman Vitoria Nuland said last week that the U.S. has urged senior Turkish officials that any contact with Hamas be “in service to the greater issue of stability and peace, and that the fundamental underlying tenets of the Quartet principles be reiterated as the necessary precondition.”

The Quartet principles are that Hamas recognize Israel, repudiate terrorism and agree to abide by previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements.