Turkey has refused to allow Israel to participate in a NATO conference set to take place in Chicago on May 20, because the Israel has not apologized for the 2010 killing of Turkish activists in a raid on a ship taking aid to Palestinians, a Turkish official said on Monday.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu commented on the possible Israeli presence at the conference. “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,” said Davutoglu last week at a NATO conference in Brussels, according to the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet Daily News.
Turkish opposition is similar to a veto, and is binding for all NATO member nations. Many member nations, including France, the U.S., as well as Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Secratary General, demanded that Turkey reverse its position on Israeli participation in the conference, and even threatened to oppose the participation of Egypt, Morocoo, Mauritania, and Algiera, other non-member nations invited to take part in the NATO “Mediterranan Dialogue” group.
Turkey, however, abrogated any possibility of a reversing its stance on the issue. “The army of a country which you call a partner killed our citizens with a political order given by its administration. We do not call this kind of country a partner,” said Davutoglu.
“I promise that Turkey will be the first to defend citizens of NATO countries in any similar situation. I believe in the principle of solidarity among NATO member nations much more than the principle of discrimination, practiced by some of you,” Davutoglu fired back at his critics.
This is not the first time Turkey has acted against Israeli participation with NATO. Take for example the Turkish opposition to the Israeli request to participate in the Mediterranan Dialogue group, affiliated with NATO, in Brussels.
Turkey also vetoed Israeli participation in the yearly “Active Endeavor” naval maneuver, in which four naval vessels from four different, non-member nations participate.
Turkey has also stated that Israel will not receive any information from NATO radar systems installed in Turkey, meant to provide warning of an Iranian missile attack.
Next month will mark two years since the Israeli raid on the Mavi Marmara, which lead to the unprecedented decline in relations between Israel and Turkey. Efforts to assuage the conflict, including the UN investigation, which suggested that Israel apologize and compensate victim’s families, have not made any changes in the Israeli stance on the issue.
According to Turkish sources, the two sides reached an agreement on the wording of an apology and payment of reparations, however due to political pressure in Israel, especially from Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Israel decided to call off the deal. Last year, U.S. President Barack Obama pressured Turkey to reach an understanding with Israel, but Turkey stated that without an official, public apology, no progress can be made.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland commented on the poor relations between the two countries. "For quite some time now we have been continuing to talk to both our ally Turkey and our ally Israel about the relationship that they have with each other to encourage them to continue to get back to a place where they can have conversation with each other,” said Nuland.
Commenting on the Chicago summit, Nuland added, “With regard to arrangements for the NATO summit and partnership events, as you know, Israel is one of NATO's partners in the Mediterranean dialogue. Those discussions are continuing as we head towards the May summit in Chicago.”
Meanwhile, Turkish international political standing has improved, due largely to Turkish opposition to the rule of Bashar Assad in Syria, Turkey’s role in renewing nuclear talks between Iran and the west, and strengthening ties with Arab nations that have undergone revolutions.
Two years ago, diplomats and analysts were wondering which country had the most to lose from the rift in relations. Today, there is no longer any doubt that Israel is the loser in this very important struggle. Turkey is no longer in need of Israeli intervention with the U.S., Turkey’s economic situation is among the best in Europe, and Turkey has become a central diplomatic channel for solving regional conflicts.
Israel, it seems, has accepted its loss of relations with Turkey, even though senior Turkish officials believe diplomatic efforts to improve relations would be worthwhile.
Natasha Mozgovaya contributed to this report.
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