By Anna Varfolomeeva
BEIJING— (October 15, 2010 —M4relay) — Turkey is making a turn in its politics. The country is staking on China, but not NATO and its allies.
The Turkish and Chinese air forces secretly participated in a military drill in Konya, Central Turkey, from September 20 through October 4, as part of the “Anatolian Eagle” war games, prompting a reaction from Washington, Taraf reported Thursday.
The first “Anatolian Eagle” joint military exercise by the US, Turkey, and Israel took place over southern Turkey in June 2001. The air forces of Israel and Turkey have flown together over each other’s territory since a bilateral defense alliance between Jerusalem and Ankara was formed in 1996. Likewise, American and Turkish forces regularly practiced as NATO allies. The U.S. Air Force contributed F-16s, normally deployed on patrol over northern Iraq, from Turkey’s Incerlik air base. Israel reportedly arrived with a team of 10 F-16 fighters, helicopters and refueling tanker aircraft. The Turkish Air Force participated with 46 aircrafts.
However, Turkey partially closed its airspace to Israeli military flights in June in reaction to the attack on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla that left nine civilians dead.
“The ban is about military flights. Civilian flights are not affected. Each request will be analyzed case by case,” diplomatic sources told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review.
Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper, reported that in the wake of Operation Cast Lead and the subsequent deterioration of bilateral relations Turkey last year revoked Israel’s participation in the maneuvers. The United States decided not to take part in the exercise this year because of that decision. A number of other NATO members followed suit.
Turkey replaced the Israel Air Force with its Chinese counterpart. China sent Sukhoi SU-27 fighter aircraft and pilots to train with Turkey’s F-16 fighters. In the past these exercises were held in relatively openness, but last week they were held covertly, with only a brief report appearing in the Turkish media after the exercise, according to Haaretz.
Washington has requested information on the matter from Turkey. The Obama administration protested Turkey’s military cooperation with Iran after it was reported that the Chinese fighter planes were sent to Turkey via Pakistan and Iran.
Turkish sources said Iran and Turkey have joined to expand military cooperation with China. They said the Turkish cooperation with Beijing would include military training, exercises and technology development.
The developing ties among Turkey, Iran and China are also reflected in weapons deals, with Iran buying from China mainly missile technology.
Turkey was the last stop in Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao’s recent European tour. The two nations pledged to raise their trade to 50 billion dollars by 2015 from an expected 17 billion dollars this year.
“While trying to attain these figures, we decided to take one more step and carry out our trade in Turkish Liras and [Chinese] Yuan,” Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said.
This move highlights many countries’ efforts to diminish the role of the U.S. dollar in the world trade and minimize dependence on the currency. It might also become an important step for Ankara’s policy of turning bilateral relations into strategic cooperation with both Russia and Iran.
These kinds of actions show that Turkey continued to drift away from the European Union which doesn’t see it as a possible full member. The changes were reflected in Turkey’s relationship with the NATO block too.
Wen invited Erdogan to China for talks aimed at further increasing mutual trust, the Tripoli Post reported.
Two countries agreed to work together to establish a joint mechanism to fight terrorism and extremism. The partnership might bring China’s relation with the Islamic world to a new level. In fact, Erdogan became popular by constantly criticizing Israel’s policies, and hence his standing grew in the Arab world. Moreover, Turkey has a very strong position regarding Iran’s nuclear program. Erdogan believes that it will be fair that if Iran is being asked not to have nuclear weapons, then Israel should give them up as well. His position somehow correlates with that of China which insists on diplomatic solution to Iran nuclear issue. Considering Turkey’s important role in the Middle East, this new union can contribute to the process of solving the ongoing conflicts in the region. Turkey and China, having each other’s support, can acquire an even more important role and influence in the process of the multi-polar world creation.