FACING A DILEMMA.

Author:Gorvett, Jon
 
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Strengthening relations between Turkey and Jordan are being viewed with suspicion elsewhere.

Speaking in Amman last May at the start of a 20-day joint Turkish-Jordanian military exercise, the Turkish ambassador to Jordan, Suha Umar, was full of praise for the country to which he had been appointed. "Jordan is the only moderate country with long-term vision in the Middle East that Turkey can trust," he said; a candid enough statement for a diplomat.

However, such praise for the Jordanians by Turkey has had a decidedly unnerving affect in the region recently, setting off alarm bells in certain other Middle Eastern capitals. Why this is so Ambassador Umar well knew, prompting him to add hurriedly to his previous statement, "Turkey's military cooperation with Jordan has nothing to do with its military ties with Israel."

Nevertheless, with Jordanian participation in the biannual Turkey-Israel strategic talks on 10 June, such denials are beginning to look a little shaky.

Turkish-Israeli cooperation goes back to a defence accord signed in 1996, but became a regional issue and the target for strong Arab criticism last January when the two countries held joint naval exercises in the Eastern Mediterranean -- along with US ships.

Since then the interests of the two have been seen to converge on a number of issues. Neither have a great deal of trust for Syria, which borders both, and recent developments in the Central Asian oil game have also seen them similarly aligned. Turkish hopes for a pipeline from Baku to Ceyhan on its southern Mediterranean coast to transport Caucasian oil are also strongly supported by Israel. Tel Aviv would like to see a link from there to its own ports, giving it another energy source independent of Middle East oil and gas production.

At the same time Israel wants to sell Turkey its tanks and use Turkish airspace to practice low-level flying. It is also jointly developing the Popeye I and II air-launched missiles with Turkey. Meanwhile, due to difficulties in gaining US Congressional approval for military sales to Ankara and Turkey's desire to maintain and upgrade its largely-US origin hardware, the Turks see Israel as a way of bypassing Congress to get the equipment they want.

On the other hand, although Turkey and Jordan signed a military training agreement 10 years ago, this was not followed up until last year, when Jordanian observers joined the controversial Eastern Mediterranean naval exercise. Then, last April, the...

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