After years of delays, Israel may open offices in its Brussels headquarters, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization advised Jerusalem on Tuesday, and may complete the process of credentials for its representatives, the Foreign Ministry stated.
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed during the weekly Likud ministers meeting on Wednesday that the decision to allow Israel to open the offices was enabled after Turkey rescinded the veto it had imposed in recent years on any Israeli activity with NATO.
Israel is not a member of NATO but is a country with which the international alliance has close ties. According to NATO's rules for collaborating with unaffiliated countries, unanimous consent of the member nations is necessary.
After the Mavi Marmara flotilla incident in May 2010, in which nine Turkish civilians on the ship trying to break the Gaza blockade were killed, Turkey instituted sanctions against Israel, one of which was to constrain Israeli activity with NATO. Turkey, a member of NATO, announced shortly after the flotilla incident that it opposed any collaboration between NATO and Israel, especially in military matters.
Consequently, moves to open an Israeli representation in NATO's headquarters were suspended, as were joint projects between Israel and the organization. Israel's participation in joint exercises was also frozen. Turkey rejected heavy pressure from the U.S. and other countries to soften its position.
Jerusalem interprets Turkey's decision to lift the veto as another sign of Ankara's desire to reconcile with Israel and normalize relations, a senior Israeli source said. Just last week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu made upbeat comments regarding reconciliation with Israel.
Another round of talks between Israel and Turkey, which is expected to be critical, is slated to take place in mid-May. Most of the disputes have been resolved, including the issue of scaling back the blockade of Gaza. Israel agreed to enable Turkey to execute a number of projects in Gaza, such as building a power station in collaboration with Germany, and building a desalination plant. The main outstanding dispute is activity by Hamas offices in Turkey. Israel claims these offices engage in planning and financing terrorism in the West Bank.