Turkey nixes NATO group meeting with Israel


(JTA) — Turkey declined to agree to a meeting of NATO’s Mediterranean Dialogue group including Israel and six Arab countries.

Egypt also declined to convene the group for the first time in five years, the Turkish Hurriyet Daily News reported.

The Mediterranean Dialogue, founded in 2004, is intended to contribute to regional security. Along with Israel and Egypt, the other participating countries are Morocco, Tunisia, Mauritania, Algeria and Jordan.

Turkey declined the meeting despite Israel’s recent apology for the deaths of nine Turkish citizens three years ago aboard the Mavi Marmara, which was attempting to break Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza.

Turkey previously rejected Israeli participation in a NATO summit in Chicago last May. It also said no to an Israeli request to have a permanent office at NATO.

Meanwhile, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan reiterated Saturday that Turkey will not reestablish diplomatic relations until Israel lifts its blockade on Gaza, the Turkish Zaman newspaper reported. Israel has said that it has loosened restrictions and will continue to do so if there is quiet.

Several rockets have been fired on Israel from Gaza in recent weeks.

Erdogan said Sunday that he would visit Gaza at the end of May, days after an official visit to the United States on May 16. The trip comes after Erdogan postponed another Gaza visit set for this month at the request of the United States, which is attempting to broker a renewed relationship between Israel and Turkey.

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