Jewish lobby calls on US to prevent Turkish block of Israel from NATO summit

Ahmet Davutoğlu (Photo: AA)

April 30, 2012, Monday/ 17:53:00

The American Jewish Committee (AJC), a prominent US-based Jewish advocacy organization, has called on the US government to get Turkey's veto lifted on Israel's participation in an upcoming NATO Summit in Chicago.

Turkey says NATO-Israel relations cannot be restored until Turkey-Israel relations are normalized. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has said Turkey will not allow Israel, a member of the Mediterranean Dialogue -- a NATO outreach program involving seven non-NATO nations, to take part in the alliance's new Partnership Cooperation Menu (PCM).

Turkey has vetoed Israel's participation in the NATO summit to take place on May 20-21 in Chicago.

Turkish and Israeli relations worsened in May 2010 and have since remained strained after Israeli naval commandos stormed the Mavi Marmara, a ship carrying humanitarian aid to breach Israel's Gaza blockade, killing nine Turkish civilians.

Turkey demands an official apology, compensation for the families of the victims and an end to the Gaza blockade. Israel claims its soldiers acted in self-defense.

AJC President Robert Elman and AJC Executive Director David Harris stated in a letter addressed to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Friday that the US should not allow Israel, its “most reliable and capable ally in the region,” to remain at arm's length from NATO due to Turkey's position.

“[I]t is our hope that … the political position of one member of this vital 28-nation alliance will not be allowed to hinder strategically advantageous cooperation with Israel -- the Middle East's sole democracy,” Elman and Harris claimed.

While acknowledging that a Turkish veto may be legally effective due to the fact that NATO acts only by consensus, the lobbyists claimed that dialogue with Israel would be beneficial in that the country has the same concerns as NATO with regard to the Middle East.

“Israel has a unique perspective, and can offer unique insights, on a range of strategic developments on NATO's doorstep, including instability in Syria, the continuing threat posed by Iran's undeterred drive for nuclear weapons capability and political transitions across North Africa,” they further claimed.

Turkey to block EU attendance bid for Chicago summit

Last week, reports appeared that Ankara has also objected to EU participation in the Chicago summit unless the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) is also allowed to be present.

Having raised the level of the EU's commitment to a NATO peace mission in Afghanistan, EU member countries, including France, have argued that the EU should be represented.

“If non-NATO members are also participating, the OIC should be represented [at the Chicago summit] first and foremost,” a Turkish diplomatic source has said, in explanation of Ankara's position, speaking to Today's Zaman last week.

The source claimed that the OIC's commitment has exceeded the EU contribution to the Afghanistan peace mission.

The OIC, a bloc of 56 countries, is 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 in the last couple of years, which would benefit efforts aiming at a reconciliation between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

However, Turkey's objection to EU participation in NATO activities involves a 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.

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