Bilateral trade was $6.8 billion in 2023

Turkey halts all trade with Israel; Jerusalem denounces ‘dictator’ Erdogan

Turkish ports said already preventing export of goods to Haifa and Ashdod ports, while Israeli imports not being unloaded; FM Katz says Israel will find alternatives, emerge strong

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, shake hands during their meeting in Istanbul, Turkey, April 20, 2024. (Turkish Presidency via AP)
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, shake hands during their meeting in Istanbul, Turkey, April 20, 2024. (Turkish Presidency via AP)

Turkey announced Thursday that it stopped all exports and imports to and from Israel, in a highly impactful move against Jerusalem over the war against Hamas.

Citing Israel’s military offensive in Gaza, a Turkish Trade Ministry statement said “export and import transactions in relation to Israel have been stopped, covering all products.”

Turkish officials would coordinate with Palestinian authorities to ensure that Palestinians are not affected by the suspension of imports and exports, the ministry said.

The ministry described the step as the “second phase” of measures against Israel, adding that the steps would remain in force until Israel “allows an uninterrupted and sufficient flow of humanitarian aid to Gaza.”

Earlier, sources familiar with the matter told the Globes financial daily that Turkish ports were already preventing the export of goods to Haifa and Ashdod ports, while Israeli goods arriving in Turkey were not being unloaded.

The two countries had a trade volume of $6.8 billion in 2023.

After initial reports on Turkey’s decision to halt trade, Foreign Minister Israel Katz accused Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of “breaking agreements by blocking ports for Israeli imports and exports.”

“This is how a dictator behaves, disregarding the interests of the Turkish people and businessmen, and ignoring international trade agreements,” Katz wrote on X.

He said he instructed Foreign Ministry Director General Yaakov Blitshtein to “immediately engage with all relevant parties in the government to create alternatives for trade with Turkey, focusing on local production and imports from other countries.”

File: Foreign Minister Israel Katz during a plenum session at the Knesset, in Jerusalem, March 6, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“Israel will emerge with a strong and daring economy,” Katz pledged. “We Win, and They Lose.”

Turkey has been one of the harshest critics of Israel during the war against Hamas, with Erdogan branding Israel a “terrorist state.”

Erdogan’s salvos against Israel include allegations it is committing “genocide” against Palestinians in Gaza. He has defended Hamas — considered a terrorist organization by Israel, the United States and the European Union — as “a liberation group.”

Citing a diplomatic source, the Al-Monitor news site said the Foreign Minister was investigating the economic consequences of Turkey’s measure.

Israel and Turkey have free trade agreements from the mid-1990s that are now being violated.

Last month, Turkey announced export trade restrictions to Israel on 54 products including cement, steel, aluminum, iron construction materials and equipment, in response to the war in the Gaza Strip.

Turkey’s exports to Israel stood at $5.43 billion last year, down from $7.03 billion in 2022, according to the Turkish Exporters’ Union and statistics agency Turkstat.

File: Supporters of Palestinians in Gaza protest in Istanbul, Turkey, April 5, 2024. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

The Turkish leader repeatedly attacked Israel on the campaign trail ahead of local elections held on March 31.

His party nevertheless suffered a significant defeat, losing control of many cities, especially to the Islam-based Yeniden Refah (New Welfare) Party.

The party, which won seats in the Turkish parliament last year after allying with Erdogan’s AKP, fielded its own candidates in the March elections, with its leader Fatih Erbakan attacking Erdogan for maintaining Turkish trade with Israel despite the war in Gaza.

“The result of this election was decided by the behavior of those who continued to trade freely with Israel and the Zionist murderers,” Erbakan said on election night.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, and President Isaac Herzog speak to the media after their talks, in Ankara, Turkey, Wednesday, March 9, 2022. (AP/Burhan Ozbilici)

Turkey and Israel normalized ties in 2022 by reappointing ambassadors after years of tensions, but relations have again become strained due to the war.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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