Roni Leshno-Yaar

Israel opened its office at NATO headquarters in Brussels, where Roni Leshno-Yaar will serve as the first Israeli representative to the alliance.

Israel opened its new office at NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) headquarters on Thursday, a move meant to strengthen ties between Jerusalem and Brussels, Ynet reported.

Roni Leshno-Yaar presented his credentials to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, becoming the first Israeli representative to NATO since the Jewish State became a partner of the organization.

“Here in NATO, we understand that Israel shares our values, and is an active and beneficial partner for Mediterranean dialogue,” NATO Deputy Secretary General Rose Goettemoeller said.

IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Yair Golan arrived in Belgium for the official opening of the Israeli office and met with senior NATO officials.

Golan notably met with the head of the Turkish Armed Forces, Gen. Hulusi Akar, on the sidelines of NATO’s conference for defense chiefs in Brussels. It is believed to be the highest-level meeting between Israeli and Turkish military officials since the two countries reestablished relations last year.

Several high-ranking Arab officials were also at the conference, including those from Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Bahrain, Kuwait, Morocco, and Tunisia. Some reportedly also spoke with Golan on the sidelines.

While Israel is not formally a member of NATO, the United States considers Israel to be a “major non-NATO ally.”

When Israel confirmed that it would be upgrading its ties with NATO last May, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “I think that this is also an important expression of Israel’s standing in the world. The countries of the world are looking to cooperate with us. This is due to our determined fight against terrorism, our technological know-how and our intelligence services.”

Israel has enjoyed military cooperation with the body in a number of fields and is a partner of the Mediterranean Dialogue, a NATO outreach program with seven friendly nations bordering the Mediterranean.

By: The Tower and United with Israel Staff

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