February 20, 2009 / 11:42 AM / 11 years ago

Israel "regrets" commander's comments - Turk military

ANKARA (Reuters) - The Israeli military has expressed regret for comments made by a general last week that strained ties between close allies Turkey and Israel, Turkey’s military said on Friday.

Ankara summoned Israel’s ambassador after Israel’s land forces commander criticised Turkey’s occupation of northern Cyprus and its conflict with Kurdish separatists.

The Turkish military had said the comments — the latest sign of tension between Israel and Turkey following Israel’s offensive on Gaza — could threaten cooperation between the Middle East allies.

General Metin Gurak, spokesman for Turkey’s military, told a weekly news conference that Israel’s chief of general staff had sent a letter to Turkey’s military commander General Ilker Basbug.

“The Israeli land forces commander’s views are of his own and are not shared by the Israeli military. Israel’s chief of staff is disappointed by those words and expressed regret,” Gurak said, reading from the letter.

Gurak said the Israeli chief of general staff has stressed it “attaches importance to its relations with Turkey’s armed forces”.

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan last month angrily accused Israeli President Shimon Peres of “knowing very well how to kill” at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Major General Avi Mizrahi was quoted by the Israeli daily Haaretz as saying Erdogan should have “looked in the mirror” before attacking Peres and that Turkey was not in a position to criticise Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands when it stations troops in northern Cyprus.

He also accused Turkey of repressing its Kurdish minority and massacring Armenians during World War One.

The Turkish General Staff had said the comments were unacceptable and had demanded an explanation.

Turkey and Israel have close military cooperation, which includes allowing the Israeli air force to train in Turkey. The two countries also share intelligence and have strong trade ties, including the sale of important military equipment.

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