Turkey, Egypt to sign strategic cooperation deal
Israel signs a military agreement Sunday with Turkey's historic rival - Greece. Israeli defense officials said the timing of the agreement has nothing to do with the escalation in the diplomatic crisis with Turkey.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is set to visit Egypt in mid-September in a bid to strengthen ties between Ankara and Cairo, the Egyptian daily Al-Shorouq reported Sunday.
Erdogan is scheduled to land in Cairo on September 12, and to meet with Egyptian Prime Minister Essam Sharaf and the head of the Supreme Military Council, General Mohammed Tantawi. The leaders are expected to discuss boosting military cooperation, and to sign a number of military and economic agreements, according to the newspaper.
The report on Erdogan's upcoming visit to Egypt comes against the backdrop of rising tensions between Israel and Egypt and declining relations between Cairo and Jerusalem following the ousting of former President Hosni Mubarak.
Erdogan also plans on visiting the Gaza Strip, although it is not known whether he will actually do so, and it is believed that even Erdogan's visit to Cairo might be postponed.
But despite the apparent rapprochement between Egypt and Turkey, a senior Egyptian Foreign Ministry official told the London-based Arabic daily Asharq Al-Awsat Sunday that Cairo does not intend to recall its ambassador from Tel Aviv or to expel the Israeli ambassador from Cairo. Photos were even published on Sunday of Egyptian security forces building a high stone wall near the Israeli Embassy in Giza to help protect it.
The senior official also told the London news outlet that Turkey's decision to expel the Israeli ambassador would not lead Egypt to take a similar step. Only after the investigation of last month's terror incident on the Israel-Egypt border near Eilat would Cairo decide what steps to take, the official said.
Meanwhile, Israel signed a military agreement Sunday with Turkey's historic rival - Greece. Israeli defense officials said the timing of the agreement, signed between Defense Minister Ehud Barak and his Greek counterpart Panayiotis Beglitis, is coincidental and has nothing to do with the escalation in the diplomatic crisis with Turkey.
However, it is difficult to ignore increasingly closer diplomatic and security ties with Greece over the years at the same time that the strategic alliance Israel enjoyed with Turkey has been unraveling. Over the past two years, the Israel Air Force has held two major exercises in Greece, one involving fighter jets and another with transport helicopters. Greece was one of the first countries to send firefighting aircraft to assist Israel during the Carmel fire last year, and the height of cooperation was when Greece prohibited ships from departing its ports to join a flotilla to Gaza in July.
Barak said at the signing ceremony Sunday in Tel Aviv: "Both we and the Greeks are experiencing developments in the world and the region that are not simple, and I think we view each other positively."