Turkey imposes export restrictions on Israel until Gaza ceasefire

In World
April 09, 2024



ANKARA:

Turkiye restricted exports of a wide range of products to Israel on Tuesday until a ceasefire is declared in Gaza, in Ankara’s first significant measure against Israel after six months of war.

Israel said it would respond to the measures, which include curbs on exports of steel, fertiliser and jet fuel, with its own restrictions on products from Turkiye.

Turkiye has denounced Israel for its campaign on Gaza, which was launched following Palestinian group Hamas’ Oct. 7 rampage. Ankara has called for an immediate ceasefire, supported steps to try Israel for genocide, and sent thousands of tons of aid for Gazans.

However, Ankara also maintained commercial ties with Israel despite its strong rhetoric, prompting a domestic backlash. The trade restrictions, which come into force on Tuesday, follow Israel’s rejection of a Turkish request to take part in an aid air-drop operation into Gaza.

The Trade Ministry said the measures would apply to the export of products from 54 different categories, including iron, marble, steel, cement, aluminium, brick, fertiliser, construction equipment and products, aviation fuel, and more.

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“This decision will remain in place until Israel, under its obligations emanating from international law, urgently declares a ceasefire in Gaza and allows the unhindered flow of sufficient humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip,” it said.

Responding to the measures, Israel’s foreign minister said Turkiye had “unilaterally violated” trade agreements with Israel.

Israel Katz said that Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan “is again sacrificing the economic interests of the people of Turkiye in order to support Hamas, and we will respond in kind”.

Shortly after the Israel-Hamas war started, Turkiye and Israel withdrew their ambassadors while regularly trading barbs. Tuesday’s move is the first significant measure taken by Ankara against Israel since the start of the conflict.

Domestic backlash

In recent weeks, Erdogan has faced growing criticism over his government’s continuing commercial ties to Israel, prompting some anti-government protests and denting popular support.

On Saturday, police in Istanbul detained dozens of protestors demanding an end to the trade with Israel. Erdogan’s stance toward Israel and the conflict in Gaza was a key factor for some of his party’s losses in March 31 local elections, with the Islamist New Welfare Party (Yeniden Refah) gaining support on the back of a more hardline stance on Gaza.

According to the data published by the Turkish Exporters Assembly (TIM), while trade with Israel has fallen since Oct. 7, exports to Israel have increased each month in 2024 so far. However, total exports in the first quarter of the year amounted to $1.1 billion, down 21.6% year-on-year, TIM data showed.

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Turkiye had already stopped sending Israel any goods that could be used for military purposes, the Trade Ministry said.

Turkiye’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and other opposition parties supported the decision to restrict exports to Israel but said the measures did not go far enough.

The CHP called for a total halt to trade with Israel, while other parties urged the government to block its airspace and ports to planes and vessels heading to Israel.

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