Report: Turkey excluded Israel over aircraft delay


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Turkey excluded Israel from a NATO military exercise because of Israel’s delay in delivering unmanned aerial vehicles to Turkey, a Turkish newspaper reported.

“Turkey needs those vehicles in its fight against terror," Today’s Zaman quoted an unnamed senior Turkish air force official as saying in its Wednesday edition. "What led to the recent crisis between Turkey and Israel was the delay in the delivery.”

Turkey signed on four years ago to purchase 10 UAV surveillance drones known as Herons from Israeli Aerospace Industries and Elbit Systems at a cost of more than $180 million. The companies missed the original delivery deadline, then missed a new deadline to deliver four Herons in August, followed shortly after by another two and finally the last four by the end of October, the newspaper reported.

Turkey has not used two Herons that have been delivered due to problems with strengthening the engine that the Israeli companies were supposed to fix, according to the report.

"The General Staff asked Israeli authorities one last time about the delivery of the Herons," the air force official told the newspaper. "Israeli authorities refused to give an exact date and said they planned to deliver the vehicles by the end of 2009, whereupon the General Staff decided to cancel the international part of the exercises.”

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, Syria’s foreign minister told Al Jazeera that Turkey and Syria held joint military exercises last week, the second military exercise between the two countries since April.

Also Tuesday, the United States criticized Turkey for excluding Israel from participation in the scheduled NATO drill, which led to its cancellation. The criticism came during a State Department press briefing.

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