NATO’s shield ready but not invitation list

NATO’s shield ready but not invitation list

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
NATO’s shield ready but not invitation list

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen. AFP photo

As NATO prepares to announce the completion of the first important phase of its missile defense shield system — a part of its new “Smart Defense Strategy” — at its May 20 and 21 Chicago summit, the guest list for the summit has not yet been finalized, due to a diplomatic quarrel.

The quarrel is over whether the European Union should be invited to the NATO Summit in its institutional capacity, according to diplomatic sources the Hürriyet Daily News spoke with.

The proposal was made by the French government following the meeting of NATO defense and foreign ministers in Brussels April 18 and 19, on the basis that the EU has contributed a great deal to recent NATO operations in areas beyond NATO’s defined operational geography, for example in Afghanistan and Libya.

But the proposal was not immediately welcomed by a number of NATO countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom and Turkey, on the basis that the EU’s top officials have already been invited to the opening dinner of the Chicago summit, and most EU countries are also NATO members.

At the April meeting Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu had vetoed a proposal from countries including France and the U.S. that Israel should be invited to the NATO summit as an observer, the reason for the veto being Turkey’s still-unmet demand that Israel apologize for the killing of eight Turkish citizens who were part of a humanitarian aid flotilla trying to break the blockade on the Gaza strip in 2010.

If the EU is invited to the summit because of its contributions to NATO missions, then other contributors should be invited as well, one Turkish source said in answer to a question from the Daily News. “We did not name any institutions such as the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) instead of the EU,” the source said. “This news does not reflect the truth. But it is true that the OIC contributed a great deal to NATO’s Afghanistan operation, and both the OIC and the Arab League have been helping NATO in Libya, to no lesser extent than the EU. We believe NATO should not waste time trying to invite more representatives from outside organizations, and should stick with our original ‘28+13’ plan for the list of participants. We await French approval of that plan.”

The ‘28+13’ guest list is likely to be finalized next week, following the second and final round of the French presidential elections on May 6th, in which the incumbent Nicholas Sarkozy will be challenged by his Socialist rival François Hollande. The ‘28+13’ list includes the 28 members of NATO plus countries that contribute to NATO operations, such as Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Sweden, and potential NATO member countries in the Balkans. The 28 NATO members will be represented at the summit at the presidential or prime ministerial level, and the observers at the level of foreign ministers.

In addition to the adaption of the Smart Defense Strategy, NATO’s Chicago summit is expected to see the announcement of “interim operational capability” for its ambitious missile shield system, in which Turkey has assumed a critical role by hosting its early warning radar. The partial withdrawal from Afghanistan, leaving core units to train an Afghan army and assist with the transfer of power is going to be another issue. Syria and Iran (both neighbors of Turkey) are also likely to figure in the discussions.