Israel and NATO conducted their first ever joint naval exercise in the Red Sea, signalling a strengthening of relations.
One month after the first visit by a NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer to Israel on February 24, 2005, six ships from the Standing NATO Response Force Mine Counter-Measures Group 2arrived at the Israeli Red Sea port of Eilat for a week-long visit, which included a joint exercise with the Israel Navy.
The NATO force, led by the Italian Artigliere-class frigate ITS Bersagliere and including German, Greek, Spanish and Turkish minehunters as well as an Italian minesweeper, conducted a search-and-rescue exercise with Israeli fast patrol boats. "We have conducted a very basic joint search-and-rescue exercise, which is similar to the manueuvers we conduct bi-annually with the U.S. and Turkish nav[ies]," said Lt Col Yossi Shahaf, the Israeli Navy's Commander of the Red Sea Arena. "The novelty in the exercise was the fact it was conducted with NATO ships, which operate regularly in the Mediterranean, but rarely visit the Red Sea.”
Source: Jane's, (May 10, 2005)