NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer met with top Israeli officials in Tel Aviv on 24 February to discuss enhancing political and practical cooperation with the country.
This was the first ever visit by a NATO Secretary General to Israel.
It is part of a round of trips the Secretary General is making to countries belonging to NATO’s Mediterranean Dialogue. The aim is to discuss enhancing the political and practical dimensions of the Dialogue and its transformation into a genuine partnership.
Mr. De Hoop Scheffer has already visited Algeria, Jordan and Morocco.
Moving towards a partnership
The Secretary General met Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz and the Chief of Staff of the Israeli Defence Forces Lt. General Moshe Ya’alon.
The meetings focused on possible ways of expanding current cooperation, particularly in the areas of military co-operation, the fight against terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
“Last June, at NATO’s Istanbul Summit, we agreed, in close consultation with Israel and other partners in this process, to try to move our relationship to another level – in short, to move from dialogue to partnership,” Mr. De Hoop Scheffer said in an address at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya.
In this context, the Secretary General said he was “happy to note that Israel has very recently stepped forward with a list of concrete proposals for enhancing our cooperation.”
He added that the responsibility for achieving peace and stability in the region lies, first and foremost, with the parties themselves. NATO lends its political support to the efforts by the so-called ‘Quartet’ to realise the goals of the ‘roadmap’, and this should remain the immediate priority, he said.
Israel has been a member of NATO’s Mediterranean Dialogue since its beginning in December 1994.