Israel will not be invited to the upcoming NATO summit that is scheduled to take place May 20-21 in Chicago, the alliance's top official said Friday.
The official denied that Turkey had blocked Israel's participation and claimed that NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the reason is because Israel does not participate in NATO's military missions in Afghanistan and Kosovo, the Associated Press reported.
According to reports, however, Turkey has blocked Israel's participation in the summit and has maintained that NATO–Israel relations cannot be restored until Turkey-Israel relations are normalized.
Relations between the two countries became increasingly hostile following the Mavi Marmara flotilla incident in 2010, when Israeli commandos bordered the vessel in an attempt to prevent IHH terror activists from breaching Israel’s borders and endangering the country’s national security. The incident resulted in the death of nine Turks, including one American citizen after the commandos acted in self-defense when the terrorists knifed, shot and kidnapped several Israeli soldiers.
“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,” a senior Turkish official told the Daily News.
“There are demands from us from us for the removal of our veto, but this is out of the question,” the official said. “Those countries who wish to see normalization in ties between Turkey and Israel should advise Israel to apologize and compensate the killing of Turks in international waters.”
NATO has a system of partnerships with dozens of nations across the world such as the Mediterranean Dialogue, a NATO outreach program with seven nations, including Israel.
"At the Lisbon summit (in 2010), we made clear that we would enhance dialogue and cooperation with partner nations ... because in today's world security challenges know no borders, and no country or alliance can deal with most of them on their own," Rasmussen told journalists.
"Israel has not been invited to attend the summit because Israel is neither a participant in ISAF nor in KFOR ... no one has blocked an invitation because it's not been an issue," he said. ISAF and KFOR are acronyms for coalition forces in Afghanistan and Kosovo.
Earlier this year, Turkey foiled a plan to include an Israeli warship in a NATO-run flotilla patrolling the Mediterranean. In the past, Israeli warships and air force jets have joined in some NATO exercises, but Israel's participation in the naval operation would have been the first time its armed forces would have taken part in one of the alliance's military operations.
Representatives of about 60 nations and international organizations will attend the Chicago conference. Partner nations include include Sweden, Switzerland, Qatar, Georgia, Australia and New Zealand.
While the alliance has repeatedly said it is prepared to enhance practical cooperation with all partner nations in the region, including Israel, a number of members states are reluctant to do, maintaining that further ties with the Jewish state could hurt the alliance's relations with other Muslim countries, including Afghanistan, which remains NATO's top operational priority, the AP reported.