Turkey’s opposition to Israeli participation in NATO events blocks the inclusion
of six other regional countries, something irritating other NATO states and
increasingly becoming a contentious issue inside the alliance, Israeli
diplomatic officials said Monday.
According to the officials, the issue
was raised last week at a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels. The
officials denied Turkish media reports that Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet
Davutoglu blocked Israel’s participation in the NATO summit in Chicago at the
end of May, saying that NATO decided weeks earlier not to invite its seven
Nevertheless, the official acknowledges that NATO
member Turkey is trying to block greater Israeli involvement in the alliance,
but as a result is also stopping the participation in NATO meetings and
workshops of Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Mauritania, Morocco and
These countries, along with Israel, make up a group of NATO
partners called the Mediterranean Dialogue, a group created in 1994 to foster
ties with Mideast countries. Other NATO countries, such as the US, are
not willing to block Israeli participation in NATO programs, but let the other
six countries of the group take part.
Earlier this year Turkey torpedoed
an Israeli plan to contribute an Israel Navy missile ship to a NATO mission in
the Mediterranean Sea called Active Endeavor, in what would have been the first
time Israel actively participated in one of the Western military alliance’s
The Hurriyet Daily News reported Monday that Davutoglu vetoed
Israel’s participation at the summit in Chicago. The report quoted a senior
Turkish official as saying “there will be no Israeli presence at the NATO
meeting unless they issue a formal apology and pay compensation for the Turkish
citizens their commandos killed in international waters.” The official was
referring to the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident.
Israeli officials said that
Israel’s participation in the Chicago parley was not the focus of the Brussels
meeting. Rather, they said, Turkey came under criticism for trying to
block greater Israeli participation in NATO, thereby denying the participation
of the other countries as well.
The officials said the Turkish media gave
the issue a much different “spin” because the Turkish government wanted to make
it seem as if it was taking a “heroic stand” over the Mavi Marmara.