Turkey will seek to rebuild Gaza if ceasefire reached, says Erdogan

President says Israeli hostages' families asked Ankara to secure their release

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan held talks with German leaders in Berlin on Friday. EPA
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Turkey will launch efforts to rebuild damaged infrastructure, hospitals and schools in Gaza if a ceasefire is achieved there, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday.

“If a ceasefire is reached, we will do whatever is necessary to compensate for the destruction caused by Israel,” Mr Erdogan said after a trip to Berlin, where he held talks with German leaders.

“We will make efforts to rebuild the damaged infrastructure in Gaza and rebuild the destroyed schools, hospitals, water and energy facilities,” he said.

Earlier in the week Mr Erdogan called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to reveal whether Israel had nuclear weapons, and he returned to the issue in his remarks on Saturday, calling for nuclear weapons inspections there.

“As Turkey, we are making this call. Israel's nuclear weapons must be inspected beyond doubt before it is too late. We will follow up on this,” he said.

Mr Erdogan also said the families of Israelis hostages held by the militant group Hamas had sent him a letter requesting that he intervened to secure their release, and added that Turkey's intelligence agency had been instructed to look into the issue.

Mr Erdogan's comments follow a tense one-day trip to Germany, one of Israel's staunchest supporters, during which he doubled down on his criticism of Israel, which he had described as a “terror state” earlier in the week.

In his first trip to Germany in four years, Mr Erdogan suggested that Germany's support for Israel in the Gaza war stemmed from guilt over the Holocaust. He drew a contrast with Turkey, which he said was able to speak without bias.

“The Israeli-Palestinian war should not be evaluated with a psychology of indebtedness. I speak freely because we do not owe anything to Israel,” Mr Erdogan said at a joint news conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Friday.

“Those who feel indebted to Israel cannot speak freely. We did not go through the Holocaust process, we don't have such situation, because our respect for humanity is different,” the Turkish leader said.

Mr Scholz did not respond directly to Mr Erdogan's remarks but restated Germany's commitment to Israel's right to defend itself.

“If you know Germany, you know that our solidarity with Israel is beyond all question,” Mr Scholz said. “Israel has the right to defend itself. At the same time all lives are equally precious and the suffering in Gaza distresses us.”

The two leaders sought to emphasise areas of agreement, including the importance of their economic ties and support for a deal on Ukrainian grain exports.

Mr Scholz declined to answer a question as to whether he would approve the sale of 40 Eurofighter warplanes to Ankara.

His approval would be needed, as Germany is a member of the consortium that makes them, together with Britain, France, Spain and Italy.

Mr Erdogan said he could go elsewhere if Scholz did not agree.

“We can procure fighter jets from many other places,” he said.

Berlin would also like to see Ankara give its final approval to Sweden's accession to the Nato military alliance.

Though Mr Erdogan has dropped his objections, the Turkish parliament has yet to ratify Sweden's membership.

Updated: November 18, 2023, 2:59 PM