With Israel’s relationship with NATO now defined as a “partnership,” the anchoring of their ships will include meetings between senior NATO officers and their Israeli counterparts as well as a joint NATO-Israel naval exercise.
The British HMS Duncan and Spanish frigate Victoria, commissioned by NATO forces, docked in Israel’s Haifa port ahead of joint exercises.
This is the first time that the Spanish frigate has docked in an Israeli port, the IDF’s Spokesperson’s Unit said Friday.
The anchoring of the ships will include a meeting between senior naval officers and a meeting between senior NATO officers and their Israeli counterparts as well as a joint NATO-Israel naval exercise.
“The exercise underscores NATO’s commitment to the strategic relationship with the Israeli Navy and to the maintenance of stability in the region,” read the IDF statement.
Israel’s relationship with NATO is defined as a “partnership,” and the country has been a member of NATO’s Mediterranean Dialogue since it was initiated in 1994 along with six other non-NATO Mediterranean countries: Jordan, Algeria, Egypt, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia.
One of the Mediterranean Dialogue’s main goals is to create a basis for dialogue and cooperation in the field of security and counterterrorism, but after the breakdown of ties with Turkey six years ago, Ankara exerted efforts to isolate Jerusalem from military cooperation with NATO.
Following the reconciliation between Turkey and Israel, Ankara withdrew its longstanding veto against Israel being accepted as a partner nation to the organization and Jerusalem opened its first ever diplomatic mission to NATO headquarters along with several other countries belonging to the Istanbul Initiative which is comprised of Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait and the UAE.
With Russia’s increasingly assertive maneuvers in the region, NATO’s strategic interest in the eastern Mediterranean is increasing and, in December, the HMS Ocean, the flagship of the Standing NATO Maritime Group 2 docked in Haifa port taking part in several joint exercises with the Israeli Navy and Air Force.
The Standing NATO Maritime Groups (SNMG) are a multinational, integrated maritime force made up of vessels from various allied countries. As well as being the flagship of SNMG2, the HMS Ocean is the flagship of the British Royal Navy. The SNMGs also help to establish a NATO presence, demonstrate solidarity and conduct routine diplomatic visits to different countries.
“There is a need to better understand the region and what is going on in the region,” said Commodore James Morley, adding that “there is no one better to do that with than the Israeli navy.”
In November 2016 NATO launched Operation Sea Guardian, a maritime security mission in the central Mediterranean, and Israel sent a liaison officer on board one of the NATO ships for the first time.
In March of last year General Peter Pavel, current Chairman of the NATO Military Committee, was in Israel on an official visit and met with senior IDF officers including IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot to discusses common challenges and regional developments.
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