We weren’t going anyway, says Israel after Turkey blocks it from NATO summit

Ankara is still waiting for flotilla apology, but also blocks NATO’s other efforts to expand partnerships with nonmember states

Raphael Ahren is a former diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu (photo credit: CC-BY-SA Martin Steinbauer/Wikipedia)
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu (photo credit: CC-BY-SA Martin Steinbauer/Wikipedia)

Jerusalem reacted with composure Monday to reports that Turkey blocked Israel’s participation in an upcoming NATO summit because Israel has not apologized for killing Turkish citizens during a maritime raid in 2010. Israel had not planned to attend the summit anyway, officials said.

“It is true that Israel wasn’t invited, because Ankara is working hard to prevent NATO from strengthening two partnerships: its Mediterranean partnership because of Israel, and its European Union partnership because of Cyprus,” an Israeli diplomatic official said. He added that Turkey was subject to “scathing criticism” from fellow member states for obstructing the development of NATO’s ties.

“We didn’t plan on attending the summit anyway,” the official said, adding that the list of invitees to NATO summits was a matter to be discussed between the alliance and its member states and that Israel was not going to get involved.

Turkish media reported on Monday that Ankara’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, during the alliance’s meeting in Brussels last week, vetoed Israel’s participation in a NATO summit of heads of state and government, which is scheduled to take place in Chicago next month.

“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 Turkish newspaper Hürriyet quotes a senior Turkish official as saying. In May 2010, Israeli naval commandos intercepted a flotilla seeking to breach the Israeli blockade of Gaza. When the commandos came under attack on one of the vessels, the Mavi Marmara, they killed nine Turkish activists, sparking a severe diplomatic crisis between the two countries.

The NATO summit in Chicago is considered one of the diplomatic calendar’s most important forums. About 50 heads of state and government are expected to attend, including US President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Diplomatic heavyweights from non-NATO states and organizations are also scheduled to participate, such as United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the president of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, as well as the prime minister of Jordan and the president of the United Arab Emirates.

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