Turkey: Deal with Israel would ease Gaza blockade
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Turkey: Deal with Israel would ease Gaza blockade

Customs and trade minister says products from his country would be allowed into Hamas-controlled Palestinian enclave

Turkish Customs and Trade Minister Bulent Tufenkci. (YouTube/tv malatya)
Turkish Customs and Trade Minister Bulent Tufenkci. (YouTube/tv malatya)

Israel would allow Turkish products into the Gaza Strip if Jerusalem and Ankara were to reach an agreement to patch up ties between the two countries, a Turkish minister said on Thursday.

Customs and Trade Minister Bulent Tufenkci made the prediction at a news conference of the Economy Correspondents’ Association, the Journal of Turkish Weekly reported.

“If agreement can be reached between the two countries, Israel will allow Turkish origin products and aid material through Turkey into the Gaza Strip.” Tufenkci was quoted as saying. “Israel will remove obstacles surrounding the movement of goods from Turkey to the Gaza Strip.”

The comments came after, earlier this week, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told a meeting of his party that Israel was flexible on easing elements of its part in an Egyptian-Israeli blockade of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.

However, Davutoglu cautioned that there was still no agreement between the two countries, whose former friendship has eroded into a fierce rivalry in recent years.

“There is progress,” Davutoglu told the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) at the meeting Sunday, “but there is still no deal.”

“They are not yet prepared to lift the blockade on Gaza entirely,” the Turkish daily Hurriyet quoted him as saying Monday. “But they’ve reached the point where they assume they can ease it for Turkey’s sake. The Israelis have said they might not prevent aid from reaching Gaza.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a Likud faction meeting Monday that “we’re not there yet” on an agreement with Turkey, according to a senior official who was present, Haaretz reported.

“The agreement isn’t even half-baked,” the senior official said.

Israel and Egypt maintained a partial blockade on the Gaza Strip, designed to prevent the import of weaponry, since the Palestinian terror group Hamas seized control of the territory in 2007.

Netanyahu said differences still remained over issues such as Hamas activity in Turkey and Israel’s policy on the Gaza closure. Senior officials also emphasized that Netanyahu’s words were aimed at lowering expectations after what they described as an exaggerated tone in messages from the Prime Minister’s Office in recent days.

The Turkish leader said that Israel was also willing to be accommodating over Ankara’s demands for compensation for families of those killed or hurt during an IDF raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla.

“Regarding compensation, one has to act according to international standards,” he said. “We want the solution to be in total accord with those standards. Israel also showed flexibility with regard to that.”

Relations between Jerusalem and Ankara broke down after the Israeli Navy intercepted a flotilla that was seeking to breach Israel’s blockade on the Hamas-run Gaza Strip in May 2010. The Israeli raid ended with nine dead Turkish activists and dozens wounded, after Naval commandos were attacked with clubs and poles as they boarded the vessel.

Tension between the countries, already high, escalated further, and current president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, then the prime minister, recalled his ambassador. Israel recalled its own ambassador in retaliation and Turkey also began legal proceedings against senior IDF officials, including then-chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi and then Navy commander Eliezer Marom.

Reconciliation talks resumed in June after a break of more than a year.

Ahmed Yousef, a senior Hamas figure, meanwhile told the Palestinian Ma’an news agency Monday that an Israeli-Turkish reconciliation deal will have a positive effect on Gaza and will allow Turkey to continue its efforts to rehabilitate areas decimated during 2014 Operation Protective Edge, Walla reported Monday.

In July, a panel of senior IDF officers told Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon that they thought the path to long-lasting quiet in the Gaza Strip lay through a partial lifting of the blockade, combined with measures to increase freedom of movement and stimulate the coastal area’s dire economic straits.

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