NATO will recognize an official Israeli representative and will grant the country a permanent office at its Brussels headquarters, Israel has said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who also serves as foreign minister, said Wednesday it was the accomplishment of a target his government had worked on "for many years."
"I announce here that Israel will accept the invitation and that we will soon open an office," he told his cabinet.
Netanyahu labelled the move "an important step that aides Israeli security."
Observers called it a significant enhancement in NATO-Israel ties, at a time of instability throughout the Middle East.
"NATO has notified Israel that Israel can open an office at the organization's headquarters and complete the process of presenting the credentials of its representative to NATO," said a statement from Israel's Foreign Ministry.
It said the announcement came after a "lengthy diplomatic effort" by Israel, a partner but not a member of the international defence alliance.
"Israel would like to thank its friends in the organization for their support and efforts on the issue," the ministry added.
Israel’s ambassador to the European Union, David Walzer, also serves as representative to NATO, but until now the Israeli mission had not been officially recognized.
Some NATO member states have in the past opposed closer cooperation with Israel, arguing it could harm relations with Muslim states.
The 28-member alliance currently has some 40 partner nations.
NATO’s treaty obliges the bloc to defend members states militarily, not partners, but partners regularly contribute to NATO operations.
Israel has cooperated with NATO in a number of areas and is a partner of the Mediterranean Dialogue, an initiative launched in 1994 between the bloc and Algeria, Mauritania, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt and Israel.
The NATO headquarters in Brussels had no immediate comment.
Wednesday, May 4, 2016 - 17:02