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Turkey and Israel announce trade barriers on each other as relations deteriorate over Gaza

By SUZAN FRASER, Associated Press
Published: April 10, 2024, 7:38am

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey and Israel announced trade barriers on each other Tuesday as relations deteriorated further amid the war in Gaza.

Turkey, a staunch critic of Israel’s military actions in the territory, announced that it was restricting exports of 54 types of products to Israel with immediate effect. They include aluminum, steel, construction products, jet fuel and chemical fertilizers. In response, Israel said it was preparing a ban on products from Turkey.

The announcements came a day after Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan said Israel had barred Turkish military cargo planes from joining an operation to airdrop humanitarian aid to Gaza and vowed to respond with a series of measures against Israel until it declares a cease-fire and allows aid to flow in without interruptions.

“There is no excuse for Israel to block our attempt to deliver aid by air to starving people of Gaza,” Fidan said.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government, which suffered major setbacks in local elections last month, is faced with intense pressure at home to halt trade with Israel. Critics accuse the government of engaging in double standards by leveling strong accusations against Israel while continuing lucrative commercial relations.

Erdogan, whose ruling party has roots in Turkey’s Islamic movement, has been an outspoken critic of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians since taking office in 2003.

The Turkish leader stepped up his criticism of Israel following its military offensive in Gaza, describing Israel’s actions as war crimes verging on “genocide” and asserting that the Hamas militant group, considered a terrorist organization by Israel, the United States and European Union, is fighting for the liberation of its lands and people.

In a post on X, Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz said Erdogan was “once again sacrificing the economic interests of the people of Turkey for his support of the Hamas murderers in Gaza.”

In the same post, he said he had contacted organizations in the U.S. and asked them to stop investing in Turkey and refrain from importing Turkish goods.

Hamish Kinnear, senior Middle East and North Africa analyst at Britain-based risk intelligence company Verisk Maplecroft, said domestic considerations were behind Turkey’s decision to slap trade restrictions on Israel, saying Erdogan’s ruling party was trying to “rally its base in the wake of defeat in local elections.”

“Reduced bilateral trade will be the result, especially if Israel retaliates with trade restrictions of its own,” Kinnear said. “Turkey’s government has likely made the calculation that damaged trade ties are worth it for the potential gain in domestic political support.”

Turkish exports to Israel amounted to $5.4 billion in 2023, according to the Turkish Statistical Institute.

Turkey and Israel had normalized ties by appointing ambassadors to their respective countries in 2022, following years of tensions.

Since January, Turkish authorities have detained dozens of people, including private detectives, on suspicion of spying for Israel, mostly on Palestinians living in Turkey.

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