Ankara says it will block EU participation in an upcoming NATO summit unless the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC) is also allowed to be present.
EU member states had proposed participation by some of the top EU bureaucrats, including European Commission President José Manuel Barroso and President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy, who are now unsure whether they will be able to attend the summit taking in Chicago on May 20-21 as representatives of the union due to the objections from Turkey, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported on Friday. Raising the EU's commitment to a NATO peace mission in Afghanistan, EU member countries including France had argued that the EU should be represented, while Turkey is maintaining that there should only be member state participation in the summit, the WSJ claimed.
“If non-NATO members will also participate, the OIC should be represented [in the Chicago summit] first and foremost,” Turkish diplomatic sources said in explaining Ankara’s position, speaking to Today’s Zaman on Sunday. The sources claimed that the OIC’s commitment exceeded the EU contribution in the Afghanistan peace mission.
The EU has exerted efforts for the reconstruction and democratization of Afghanistan in preparation for the post-NATO-mission period in the country. The EU launched a rule of law mission (EUPOL) under the banner of the European Security and Defense Program (ESDP) in June 2007. The union has also initiated a program for justice reform and is helping to fund civilian projects in NATO-run Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs).
Meanwhile, the OIC, a bloc of 56 countries, is also taking a growing interest in the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and in 2010 it accepted a proposal by member states Turkey and the United Arab Emirates to appoint an OIC permanent representative for Afghanistan.
The US administration has joined the push for greater OIC involvement in Afghanistan for the last couple of years, which would bring benefits in efforts towards reconciliation between the Afghan government and the Taliban.
The Turkish diplomatic sources also noted that the different proposals coming from NATO members on who will participate are still being discussed and there is not an ultimate decision yet. They added that there are also objections from other non-EU NATO members to the proposed EU participation in the Chicago summit.
The background to Turkey’s objection to EU participation in NATO activities involves a more long-standing dispute. Greek Cyprus, representing the entire island as a full member of the EU, blocks Turkish participation in European defense institutions such as the European Defense Agency (EDA). Turkey, a NATO member, has responded by obstructing the EU’s integration in NATO activities.
Rejection of Israeli partnership in NATO
Turkey has also blocked Israel’s participation in the summit in a sign of Turkey’s determination to prevent its new foe from cooperating with the alliance following a deadly ship raid.
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said during a NATO meeting in Brussels on April that Turkey will not allow Israel, a member of the Mediterranean Dialogue, a NATO outreach program including seven non-NATO nations, to take part in the alliance’s new “Partnership Cooperation Menu (PCM).
Turkish-Israeli relations worsened in May 2010 and have remained strained since then after Israeli naval commandos stormed the Mavi Marmara, a ship carrying humanitarian aid to breach Israel’s Gaza blockade, killing nine Turkish civilians.
Turkey insists that NATO-Israel relations cannot be restored until Turkey-Israel relations are normalized.