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Turkey halts all trade with Israel until permanent Gaza cease-fire

Israel’s “uncompromising attitude” and the worsening situation in Gaza’s southern Rafah region — where Israel has threatened to launch a new offensive — prompted Turkey to halt all exports and imports, said Trade Minister Omer Bolat.
Turkey halts all trade with Israel until permanent Gaza cease-fire
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul on July 8, 2023.Francisco Seco / AP
/ Source: Reuters

Turkey will not resume trade with Israel, worth $7 billion a year, until a permanent ceasefire and humanitarian aid are secured in Gaza, it said on Friday, the first of Israel’s key partners to halt trade over the conflict.

Israel’s “uncompromising attitude” and the worsening situation in Gaza’s southern Rafah region — where Israel has threatened to launch a new offensive — prompted Turkey to halt all exports and imports, said Trade Minister Omer Bolat.

Israel’s Foreign Minister Israel Katz criticized Turkish President Reccep Tayyip Erdogan’s move, announced late Thursday, saying it breaks international trade agreements and was “how a dictator behaves.”

The militant group Hamas, which rules Gaza, praised the decision as brave and supportive of Palestinian rights.

“We decided to stop exports and imports to and from Israel until a permanent ceasefire is achieved (in Gaza) and humanitarian aid is allowed without interruption,” the minister Bolat said.

Turkey is negotiating “with our Palestinian brothers on alternative arrangements to ensure that they are not affected by this decision”, he added while announcing April trade figures.

Last month, Turkey curbed exports of steel, fertilizer and jet fuel among 54 product categories over what it said was Israel’s refusal to allow Ankara to take part in aid air-drop operations for Gaza.

All remaining trade, which amounted to $5.4 billion in Turkish exports and $1.6 billion in Israeli imports last year, is now halted.

Aftermath of Israeli Airstrike In Gaza, Palestine
Palestinians check the damage of a house destroyed by Israeli bombardment in the Nuseirat camp in Gaza on April 27, 2024.Majdi Fathi / NurPhoto via AP

Top Turkish exports to Israel are steel, vehicles, plastics, electrical devices and machinery, while imports are dominated by fuels at $634 million last year, Turkish trade data show.

Turkish exporters with firm orders are looking at ways to send their goods to Israel via third countries after Turkey halted bilateral trade, four export sector sources told Reuters.

Katz said blocking ports for Israeli imports and exports ignores trade deals, adding on social media platform X that Israel would work toward alternatives for trade with Turkey.

Turkey has denounced Israel’s military campaign in Gaza, sent thousands of tons of aid for Gazans and, this week, said it would join South Africa’s genocide case against Israel at the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

Yet its decision to maintain commercial ties with Israel until last month, despite Erdogan’s strong rhetoric, prompted a domestic backlash and hurt the results of the ruling AK Party in nationwide local elections in March.

Hamas said on Friday Turkey’s trade halt was “brave and reflective of the Turkish people’s longstanding support for Palestinian rights and self-determination.”

Turkey maintains ties with Hamas leaders and does not deem it a terrorist group.

More than 34,000 people have been killed in Gaza during Israel’s nearly seven-month-old military offensive, Palestinian health officials say, after Hamas militants killed some 1,200 people and took 253 hostages during an Oct. 7 assault on southern Israel, according to Israeli tallies.