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Turkey and Egypt nix NATO meet with Israel

An initiative to bring Israel and six Arab countries’ ministers together under NATO’s Mediterranean Dialogue group for the first time since 2008 has been nixed by Turkey and Egypt, who said “it was not the right time” for such a meeting. “The general-secretary was planning to invite the foreign ministers of the Mediterranean Dialogue countries on the sidelines of the NATO foreign ministers meeting scheduled for April 23 but Turkey objected to the idea,” a Western diplomatic source told the Hürriyet Daily News on the condition of anonymity. Established in 2004, the Mediterranean Dialogue brings Israel, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Mauritania, Algeria and Jordan together with the purpose of contributing to regional security and stability.  However, the last time the group met at the foreign ministerial level was 2008 – a reflection of the ongoing dispute between Israel and the Arab world.  Following Israel’s recent apology to Turkey, which created a positive climate in the region and raised prospects for the launching of a new peace process between Palestine and Israel, Western powers wanted to resume the Mediterranean Dialogue meetings at the ministerial level.

“It’s not right that we have objected. This sort of meeting was not held since 2008 because of the political problems between Israel and Arab countries. At this stage, such a meeting would not be useful,” a Turkish official told the Daily News.

In addition, the diplomat underlined that Egypt and Tunisia, two members of the Mediterranean Dialogue, did not want to hold such meeting at this stage either.

Not because of Israel

But the same official dismissed claims that Turkey objected to the idea because of Israel’s presence in the group, recalling that the government started to allow Israeli participation in NATO’s political meetings in December 2012.

Turkey vetoed Israeli participation in NATO’s Chicago Summit in May 2012, as well as an Israeli demand to have a permanent office at NATO, in reaction to the Israeli military operation in 2010 against the activists on board the Mavi Marmara vessel that was aiming to break the Israeli embargo against Gaza.

Israel apologized to Turkey on March 22 after nearly three years, kick-starting a normalization process between the two countries.

Although the Turkish objection is not directly related to its cool relations with Israel, nixing the meeting is mostly to the disadvantage of Tel Aviv, which is the most eager member of the dialogue group, out of a desire to build good relations with NATO.

The alliance does not have a good reputation among the Muslim world, and Muslim members of the dialogue group prefer to remain distanced from NATO’s projects.

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