ANKARA — Turkey has blocked Israel’s attendance at a May NATO summit over its refusal to apologize for the deaths of nine Turks during a 2010 assault on a protest flotilla bound for Gaza, a Turkish official said April 23.
However, NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen denied the assertion, saying the Jewish state was not invited to the summit set for May 20-21 in Chicago.
The Turkish official, who requested anonymity, told AFP earlier April 23: “We have not agreed to this. We don’t think Israel should take part in such a forum,” adding: “NATO is an alliance to which Israel does not belong.”
Turkish press reports said Israel wanted to take part in the key summit as a participant in the Mediterranean Dialogue cooperation program with NATO.
Turkey would have been able to block Israel’s attendance because of NATO’s policy of consensual decision-making.
The Hurriyet Daily, quoting diplomats, said Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu defended Ankara’s stance at a NATO ministerial meeting where he was criticized for bringing a bilateral dispute into the alliance’s affairs.
Davutoglu was quoted as replying that, “Turkey cannot consider as a partner a country that has killed Turkish citizens in international waters.”
But Rasmussen told the EU Parliament’s foreign affairs committee in Brussels on April 23: “Turkey has not blocked such an invitation because we have not considered to invite Israel to participate.”
Mainly Muslim Turkey, led by a conservative government with Islamist roots, is a staunch supporter of the Palestinian cause.
Ties with Israel have been severely strained since Israeli commandos stormed a Turkish ferry, the Mavi Marmara, that was part of the Free Gaza flotilla trying to break the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip in May 2010.
Ankara has demanded an official apology and compensation for the nine Turks who were killed.