'Turks clashing with NATO allies over Israel'

Israeli official: By blocking Israel's involvement in NATO events, Turkey also keeping 6 other regional countries from taking part.

April 23, 2012 19:26
1 minute read.
Meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels

NATO headquarters 311. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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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 Mediterranean partners.

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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 Tunisia.

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 operations.

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.

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