BRUSSELS (AFP) Jan 23, 2004 – NATO is considering a partnership with Israel and certain Arab countries as a way of strengthening the political and military ties between them, a senior US diplomat said in Brussels on Friday.
NATO is considering a partnership with Israel and certain Arab countries as a way of strengthening the political and military ties between them, a senior US diplomat said in Brussels on Friday.
“Given the fact that security in the entire Mediterranean region and the entire Middle East is critical to all NATO countries, NATO is beginning to think how it can enhance and improve its relationship with these countries,” said the US ambassador to NATO, Nicholas Burns.
Burns made his comments on the margins of a seminar on the US initiative, which has been dubbed “NATO and the Greater Middle East”.
“The goal is to have stronger relations particularly in the military sphere,” he said.
US Secretary of State Colin Powell had suggested last month in Brussels that NATO “ought to take that dialogue and transform into a partnership”, he added.
Burns said Washington wanted the NATO leadership to reach agreement on such a partnership with the seven members of the so-called Mediterranean Dialogue at the next NATO summit in the Turkish city of Istanbul in June.
The Mediterranean Dialogue is a loose grouping of countries formed to provide a framework for discussions with NATO. Its members are Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia.
No decision has been taken yet on what form this cooperation might take or what level of representation the associated countries would be afforded at NATO summits.
“Hopefully at Istanbul our leaders will agree to expand this partnership and that would be very much the American wish,” said Burns.
He also said he did not think the proposed partnership would involve extending the Partnership for Peace Programme. That programme involves 27 countries and is chiefly aimed at cooperation on defence matters between NATO and east European countries.