BRUSSELS (Reuters) - NATO said on Wednesday it had agreed to non-member Israel setting up representation at its Brussels headquarters, a tentative sign of rapprochement between the Jewish state and NATO member Turkey.
Israel and Turkey have stepped up efforts to patch up a relationship badly damaged following an Israeli raid in 2010 on a Turkish boat, the Mavi Marmara, which had been trying to breach a blockade on the Gaza Strip.
NATO said in a statement that Israel’s ambassador to the European Union, David Walzer, would now also head its mission at alliance headquarters.
The foreign ministry of Israel, which is not a NATO member but has partner status as a participant in the alliance’s Mediterranean Dialogue programs together with six other non-NATO countries in the region, welcomed the move.
Turkey’s mission to NATO had no comment on Wednesday but Ankara previously opposed some forms of NATO cooperation with Israel following the Mavi Marmara incident.
In 2010, Israeli commandos raided the Mavi Marmara, which was the lead ship in a group of boats trying to break the blockade, and killed nine Turks in clashes with activists.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Wednesday that Ankara has discussed the opening Israeli mission at NATO with Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
“We said we may welcome this if all countries are treated equally,” Cavusoglu said. “It’s important that not only Israel but other southern partners are granted the same right.”
Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska in Brussels, Jeffrey Heller in Jerusalem and Gulsen Solaker in Ankara; Editing by Richard Balmforth