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Israel Denies Turkish Report It Blocked Mission at NATO

Israeli officials say the country may still open an office in the NATO headquarters in Brussels, denying Turkey's claim it blocked the move.
By Chana Ya'ar
First Publish: 9/19/2011, 6:26 PM

Israeli officials say the Jewish State may still open a mission at the NATO office in Brussels, despite attempts by Turkey to block the initiative.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told the CNNTurk news channel in an interview aired Sunday evening, “Israel recently made an attempt to open an office at NATO in Brussels. We said we would veto this attempt and the issue was not even put on the agenda.”

Israel has denied any knowledge of such a veto.

Ankara, a member of NATO, is set on keeping Israel out of data-sharing activities after a powerful U.S. radar system is installed in the eastern Turkish province of Malatya, according to the Turkish Hurriyet Daily News. The radar system will be deployed as part of a NATO missile-shield project, according to the report, and allegedly available only for use by NATO members.

The report contradicts separate media coverage in the United States, in which officials said Friday they planned to merge radar data from Turkey, Israel and other areas to create a comprehensive map of the missile threat to the region.

The Jewish State has participated in numerous initiatives with NATO in recent years, among them the Mediterranean Dialogue, created in 1994 to foster ties among seven countries in the region, such as Israel, Egypt, Jordan and Morocco.

Last year Israel also signed an agreement with NATO to deploy a missile ship with the organization's Active Endeavour mission to patrol the Mediterreanean Sea. The mission is aimed at preventing weapons smuggling and terrorism on the high seas.

NATO extended invitations earlier this year to all of the countries involved in the Mediterreanean Dialogue – including Israel – to open offices at NATO headquarters in Brussels.

That offer is still relevant, according to government officials who said it was still being discussed. Israel is also applying for an upgraded status with the Western alliance following a Strategic Concept review by NATO that will enable Israeli officials to participate in its top forums, even though Israel is not a member.

Turkey has made a concerted effort to continue harassing Israel since Operation Cast Lead, its three- week counter terrorism mini-war against the Hamas terrorist rulers of Gaza in the winter of 2008-2009, which Ankara opposed.

That diplomatic conflict was exacerbated by the deaths of nine Turkish terror activists during clashes with IDF navy commandos whom they attacked as they boarded to redirect the Mavi Marmara, an IHH-sponsored flotilla vessel, in May 2010. The ship was one of six vessels that attempted to illegally breach Israel's maritime blockade of Gaza. 

Turkey has demanded that Israel apologize for the deaths, and dismantle its blockade of Gaza, used to prevent terrorists from smuggling weapons into the region.