Turkey cuts off trade with Israel over Gaza war

Ankara 'breaking agreements by blocking ports for Israeli imports and exports', claims Israel Katz

Haydarpasa port on the Bosphorus in Istanbul. Bilateral trade between Turkey and Israel was nearly $6.8 billion last year. EPA
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Turkey has confirmed it will stop all trade with Israel until the country allows humanitarian aid to flow uninterrupted into Gaza.

The decision expands on a move announced in April to restrict some Turkish exports to Israel due to the “worsening humanitarian tragedy in Palestine”, Turkey's Trade Ministry said on Thursday.

It said efforts were under way to ensure that Palestinians were not adversely affected.

The pause took effect on Thursday, sources told Bloomberg.

“The second phase of the measures taken at the state level has been started, and export and import transactions related to Israel have been suspended to cover all products,” the ministry said.

“Turkey will firmly and decisively implement these new measures until the government of Israel allows an uninterrupted and sufficient flow of humanitarian aid to Gaza.”

The move represents an escalation in the rift between Israel and Turkey over the war in Gaza. On Thursday, Israel's Foreign Minister Israel Katz accused Turkey of cutting off trade with his country.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan “is breaking agreements by blocking ports for Israeli imports and exports”, Mr Katz said in a post on X. “This is how a dictator behaves, disregarding the interests of the Turkish people and businessmen, and ignoring international trade agreements.”

Mr Katz said he instructed the Director General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to “immediately engage with all relevant parties in the government to create alternatives for trade with Turkey, focusing on local production and imports from other countries”.

“Israel will emerge with a strong and daring economy. We win and they lose,” he said.

Bilateral trade between Turkey and Israel stood at nearly $6.8 billion last year, according to the Turkish statistical institute data. More than 75 per cent of this was Turkish exports.

Last year, the largest export from Turkey to Israel was iron and steel, while the primary import was refined oil products.

Formed in 1993 to promote trade ties between the two countries, the Turkey-Israel Business Council includes companies' goods and services ranging from digital payments technologies to metal packaging.

The latest actions followed Turkey's recent announcement of plans to join South Africa's case against Israel at the UN's highest court, accusing Israel of genocide in Gaza.

Turkey had already announced it was restricting some exports to Israel amid strained relations between the two countries over Israel's continuing war in Gaza.

In April it said it was imposing restrictions on a list of goods because of Israel's refusal to allow Turkey to take part in aid drop operations over Gaza.

The list provided by the ministry includes 54 items, among them construction materials such as marble, cement, steel and aluminium products.

A flotilla laden with aid for Gaza has also been stuck in port in Turkey, due to an “administrative roadblock” initiated by Israel, organisers said.

The Freedom Flotilla of three ships, which aims to deliver more than 5,000 tonnes of humanitarian aid to the strip, was due to leave Istanbul on Friday, but has since been delayed.

The recent moves by Ankara came after Mr Erdogan faced criticism for not stopping trade with Israel.

After local elections in March in which he lost votes to more conservative Islamist parties, Turkey’s leader has been under increasing pressure from the public to take more forceful action against Israel.

But Mr Erdogan has been a vocal critic of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israeli government's policies towards Palestinians.

He has accused Israel of being a “terrorist state” and voiced his support for Hamas.

Mr Erdogan has come under pressure domestically with protesters calling for him to cut off relations with Israel due to the Gaza war, in which more than 34,500 Palestinians have been killed since October.

Pro-Palestine demonstrations have grown in Turkey in recent weeks.

In August 2022, Turkey and Israel announced the restoration of diplomatic ties and the return of ambassadors to each other’s countries after years of tension.

Both countries had also agreed to explore co-operation avenues.

However, the Hamas-led attack on Israel on October 7 reignited hostilities, leading to the current conflict.

Updated: May 03, 2024, 5:51 AM