Opening NATO office still on table despite Turkish claims

Gov't officials deny Ankara's assertion that Turkey had blocked Israeli attempt to open office in western military alliance’s headquarters.

NATO headquarters 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
NATO headquarters 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The possibility of opening an Israeli mission at NATO headquarters in Brussels is still “on the table” government officials said on Monday, in response to Turkish claims that Ankara had succeeded in vetoing the initiative.
On Sunday night, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told the CNNTürk news channel that Turkey had succeeded in blocking an Israeli attempt to open an office in the Western military alliance’s headquarters.
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“Israel recently made an attempt to open an office at NATO [headquarters] in Brussels.
We said we would veto this attempt and the issue was not even put on the agenda,” Davutoglu said.
But Israeli officials involved in relations with NATO said that the option of opening an office at NATO headquarters in Brussels was “realistic” and was currently under consideration within the Foreign Ministry and Defense Ministry.
“We do not know of any veto or of the possibility that one country can veto an offer that was made by NATO,” one government official said.
In recent years, Israel has significantly boosted its cooperation with NATO and regularly participates in workshops and seminars organized by the Western military alliance and member countries. In 2010, the Israel Navy and NATO signed an agreement to deploy a missile ship with Active Endeavour, a NATO mission to patrol the Mediterranean Sea and prevent terror and weapons smuggling.
Israel is also seeking to receive an upgraded status following the conclusion of a Strategic Concept review the military alliance is currently conducting that will enable Israeli officials to participate in top NATO forums – even though Israel is not a member of the alliance but a member of the Mediterranean Dialogue, which was created in 1994 to foster ties with Middle Eastern countries like Israel, Jordan, Egypt and Morocco.
Earlier this year NATO extended invitations to all of the countries involved in the Mediterranean Dialogue and other non-membership forums to open offices at NATO headquarters in Brussels.
Defense officials said that the offer was still relevant and that it was being “positively considered” by the government. It is still unclear what the rank of the Foreign Ministry or Defense Ministry official will be who would man the mission if established.
“We could gain from having an office in NATO headquarters which could eventually lead to a more significant increase in cooperation,” one defense official said.