Erdogan urges Israel to agree to a two-state solution

Turkish President, speaking in Dubai, says Israel must stop its expansionist ambitions

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks at the World Governments Summit in Dubai on Tuesday. Antonie Robertson / The National
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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called on Israel to agree to a two-state solution and stop its violence against Palestinians trapped in the Gaza Strip.

Speaking at the World Governments Summit in Dubai on Tuesday, Mr Erdogan reaffirmed Ankara's unwavering support towards the Palestinian population.

"If Israel wants lasting peace, it must stop pursuing its expansionist ambitions and accept the existence of an independent Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders," he said.

Mr Erdogan said "Israel, which regards itself as above international law, has not abandoned its policies of occupation, usurpation, destruction and massacre".

Israel is planning to expand its ground assault in Gaza by entering the city of Rafah, where more than one million Palestinians have sought refuge from a military assault that has laid waste to much of the territory since Hamas militants attacked southern Israel on October 7.

The planned move, which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says is necessary to wipe out Hamas and prevent the possibility of further attacks, has alarmed the US, Israel's main ally, and drawn condemnation from countries across world and the region.

Israeli air strikes have in recent days started hitting Rafah, which is in the south of the Gaza Strip and abuts the Egyptian border.

Turkey will never "leave our Palestinian brothers abandoned, helpless, or alone", Mr Erdogan said. Ankara had shown "every responsibility and effort to spare this war", he added.

Mr Erdogan said the only way out of the crisis was through the establishment of a Palestinian state.

"Without the independent, sovereign, geographically independent Palestinian state we will not have peace.

"This is the key to peace, tranquillity and economic development in our region."

Appeal for UNRWA

Mr Erdogan called on "conscientious" countries to support the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), hailing it as “a lifeline for six million refugees in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Palestine".

The US and other major European donors suspended financial transfers to UNRWA after Israel accused 12 of its staff of taking part in the Hamas attacks on October 7.

They include EU countries Germany, France and Sweden, which collectively transferred close to $325 million last year, according to UNRWA figures.

"It hurts us to see the attacks against the staff of the UN Palestinian agency and we must extend our support," Mr Erdogan said.

He said he was not making his appeal as president of a predominantly Muslim country, but as a president of "a country that has opened its door to the Jewish community in Europe".

The UN agency, which provides essential services such as schooling and health care, has struggled financially for years and has said it may have to shut down operations if funding does not resume.

The suspended funds amount to $440 million, about half of its operational costs.

Since the war in Gaza began, Turkey has taken in more than 300 patients from Gaza for treatment.

Turkey's Health Minister, Fahrettin Koca, accompanied some of the patients en route from Egypt.

Updated: February 13, 2024, 2:21 PM