US visit to try to revive Turkish-Israeli defence ties
Defence secretary Hagel seeks to restart military co-operation in wake of Mavi Marmara apology
US secretary of defence Chuck Hagel is to try to encourage Turkey and Israel to restart military co-operation, which used to include manoeuvres and defence contracts. Photograph: Alex Wong/Getty Images
US defence secretary Chuck Hagel will try to rekindle military co-operation between Turkey and its former close ally Israel in his first visit to the two countries since taking office, a Turkish official said today.
Mr Hagel, whose visit to Turkey will take place close to his Israel trip set for April 21st-23rd, will also discuss regional issues, the official said. Turkey has borders with war-ravaged Syria, as well as with Iran and Iraq.
The US embassy in Ankara said it would not comment on any potential visits.
Relations between Israel and Turkey, once the Jewish state's closest Muslim ally, fell apart in 2010 after Israeli marines killed nine Turkish activists aboard aid ship Mavi Marmara which was trying to break Israel's naval blockade of the Palestinian-run Gaza Strip.
But in a rapprochement brokered by US president Barack Obama last month, Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu apologised for the killings to his Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan and pledged compensation to the bereaved or injured.
During his visit, the official said, Mr Hagel would try to encourage both countries to restart military co-operation, which used to include manoeuvres and defence contracts.
Apart from relations with Israel, the civil war in Syria is likely to feature prominently in discussions.
The US has provided two of six North Atlantic Treaty (Nato) organisation Patriot missile defence systems in Turkey, a Nato member, to help protect it from any missile attack from Syria.
Turkey has received hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees and has thrown its weight behind rebels trying to oust President Bashar al-Assad.
Mr Hagel's visit will follow a trip by US secretary of state John Kerry, who was in Turkey over the weekend for his second visit there in just over a month. During that visit, Mr Kerry urged Turkey to fully normalise ties with Israel.
Mr Kerry and Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu said a core group of the Friends of Syria should convene soon.
The Turkish official said this meeting could take place in Turkey, but did not give a date.