Turkey expects Israeli reponse over dropped aircraft fuel tanks

Monday, September 10, 2007

ANKARA - Turkey said Monday that it was expecting a swift response from Israel over two detachable aircraft fuel tanks found near its border with Syria and described the incident as unacceptable.

"This is an unacceptable development for us," Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan told reporters here after talks with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem.

"All countries in the region must respect the sovereign rights of other countries and refrain from acts that create tensions," he added. "Otherwise efforts to install peace and stabilty will be impeded."

Babacan added that Ankara was carrying out its own investigation and had asked its key regional ally Israel to look into the issue.

"Israel said ... it would give us information in the shortest time possible," he added.

The drop tanks were discovered Friday in fields in the southeastern provinces of Hatay and Gaziantep near the border with Syria, a day after Damascus said its air defences opened fire at Israeli warplanes which violated Syrian airspace and dropped munitions.

Turkish newspapers said at the weekend that the fuel tanks were from US-made F-15 fighter jets -- the kind used by Israel.

Muallem on Monday strongly condemned the alleged Israeli violation.

"This was an intentional, hostile attack by Israel," Muallem said.

"It shows that Israel never had any desire for peace and that it has a secret ambition," he added, without elaborating.

Israel has do far declined to comment on the issue.

Secular, Muslim Turkey has been a main regional ally of Israel since 1996 when the two countries signed a military cooperation deal, much to the anger of Arab countries and Iran.

Ankara has also greatly improved its ties with its southern neighbour Syria after years of animosity over the safe haven Syria accorded to Turkish Kurd rebels.

Muallem is scheduled to meet Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and President Abdullah Gul later Wednesday.

He is expected to give Gul a message from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad congratulating him on his recent election as Turkish president.

han/mb

09/10/2007 11:00 GMT

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