Turkey halts trade with Israel over Gaza conflict

12:10 06.05.2024 •

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Pic.: Palestine Chronicle

Turkey has halted trade with Israel as it again accused the country of stoking a “humanitarian disaster” in Gaza, marking the latest sign of deepening tensions between the two nations, ‘The Guardian’ reports.

Ankara’s trade ministry late on Thursday said all export and import transactions related to Israel had been stopped and would not resume until the Jewish state “allows an uninterrupted and sufficient flow of humanitarian aid to Gaza”.

Ankara in April sanctioned exports in 54 important categories of goods but this latest move will disrupt bilateral trade worth more than $7bn a year. A Turkish official described the curbs as a temporary measure meant to put pressure on Israel, but said they could also be reversed if Ankara’s conditions were met.

Israel Katz, Israeli foreign minister, said earlier in the day, following a Bloomberg report that Ankara had cut off trade, that he had urgently instructed officials to “create alternatives for trade with Turkey”.

Israel’s foreign ministry did not respond to questions over whether Ankara had formally notified Israel that it was making such a move.

Erdoğan has been ratcheting up his criticism of Israel in recent months, accusing it of acts of “genocide” over its war with Hamas and calling Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the “butcher of Gaza”.

Turkey has also diverged from its western allies in declining to identify Hamas as a terrorist organisation and allowing its members to live in the country. Erdoğan hosted Hamas’s leader, Ismail Haniyeh, for meetings in Turkey last month. Ankara this week also said it would attempt to join South Africa’s case against Israel at the International Court of Justice.

Turkey’s trade with Israel was $7.1bn last year, down from $9.5bn in 2022, according to Trade Data Monitor, a customs database. Turkish exports accounted for about three-quarters of that. A free trade agreement between the two countries came into force in 1997.

Erdoğan has been facing significant pressure domestically to step up measures against Israel, particularly after local elections in March when his party suffered its biggest defeat since its founding two decades ago. Many candidates had said in their campaigns that the Erdoğan government had not taken sufficient action against Israel over the war in Gaza.

Erdoğan had pursued a policy of rapprochement with Israel prior to the start of the war on October 7, part of a wider effort to improve relations in the region and boost Turkey’s flagging economy. He met Netanyahu for the first time last September at a UN General Assembly meeting.

Turkey and Israel expelled each other’s ambassadors in 2018 after Israeli soldiers killed scores of protesters in Gaza. The two countries restored diplomatic relations in 2022.


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