Turkey, Israel and the U-S are to carry out joint naval exercises in the Mediterranean on Wednesday prompting an angry reaction from some of Israel’s Middle East neighbours.

Syria says the exercises are aimed at strengthening Israel so the Jewish state can impose an unacceptable peace settlement on Syria.

And Iran has criticised Jordan’s decision to send an observer to the exercises called “Reliant Mermaid,” during which the three navies will practise search and rescue missions.

Naval vessels from the U-S and Turkey have converged on the port of Haifa on Israel’s Mediterranean coast to prepare for joint exercises later in the week.

It is the first time the three countries have held naval exercises together and the decision to do so has provoked an angry reaction from some countries in the Middle East.

Syria says the exercises are aimed at making a stronger Israel which will ultimately lead to it imposing a peace settlement that is unacceptable to Syria.

And it has joined Iran in condemning Jordan for sending an observer to the operation.

Jordan, Israel’s closest Arab ally, defied Arab and Muslim opinion by making the announcement on Saturday that it would be sending an observer.

And the Cairo-based Arab League on Sunday denounced the planned naval exercises as harmful to the Middle East peace process.

The one-day seaborne portion of the exercise, scheduled for Wednesday (January 7) will involve five ships, several helicopters and search aircraft.

The Mayor of Haifa, Amram Mitzna welcomed the officers from Turkey and the United States and all of them exchanged gifts.

The U-S and Turkish commanders stressed the exercises were strictly of a search and rescue nature.

SOUNDBITE: (English)
This exercise, however, that we are about to do on Wednesday is particularly important because it is a humanitarian one, it has to do with saving lives of people. If you were out there if the press were here today on Wednesday with us, you will see that that objective that we three navies are about to perform has one sole purpose, and that is able that the three navies can work together better if the opportunity were to arise that a sailor at sea were in danger and to be able to respond to him in a humanitarian way in a search and rescue mission.
SUPER CAPTION: Commander Joe Sestak, Commander of Task Force 60

SOUNDBITE: (English)
“I just think that I agree with him and I hope it’s a good opportunity for all navies.”
SUPER CAPTION: Captain M. Ishan Tavazr, Public Information Officer of TGS (Turkish General Staff)

Turkey and Israel signed a series of military cooperation agreements in 1996 and are currently in discussions over several defence-related projects.

Israel already has a U-S 632.5 million dollar contract to upgrade Turkey’s F-4 jets.

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