Turkey halts trade with Israel until permanent Gaza ceasefire

ISTANBUL — Turkey said on Friday it will not resume trade with Israel, worth $7 billion a year, until a permanent ceasefire and humanitarian aid are secured in Gaza, becoming the first of Israel’s key commercial partners to take such a step.

Israel’s “uncompromising attitude” and the worsening situation in Gaza’s Rafah region, a refuge for displaced people that Israel has threatened to storm – prompted Ankara to halt all exports and imports, Trade Minister Omer Bolat said.


Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz criticised Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s move, enacted late on 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. It marks Ankara’s strongest step after months of sharp criticism of Israel’s military campaign, which has laid waste to the densely populated Palestinian enclave. Erdogan had faced growing domestic calls for more tangible action.

Turkey could not remain idle in the face of “Israeli bombardment of defenceless Palestinians”, Erdogan said after Friday prayers. Israel says it is targeting militants hiding in residential areas.

Erdogan later told Turkish business people that Ankara would manage problems stemming from this decision “in coordination and dialogue” with its business world, adding he believed this would serve as an example for other countries that are “uncomfortable with the current situation”.

“I want this to be known: we aren’t chasing animosity or a fight with any country in our region,” Erdogan said, adding he was aware of “how the West will attack us” over the move.

“We have a single goal here: to force the (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu leadership, which has gotten out of control with the West’s unconditional military and diplomatic support, to a ceasefire,” he added.

Bolat said Turkey was in talks with “Palestinian brothers on alternative arrangements to ensure that they are not affected by this decision”.

Last month, Turkey curbed exports of steel, fertiliser 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.

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