Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that he will review economic and trade ties with Israel, and urged Islamic countries to uphold a recent decision calling for economic sanctions against any country that follows the US in moving its embassy to Jerusalem or recognizes the city as Israel’s capital.
Relations between Israel and Turkey soured dramatically in the aftermath of clashes last week on the Israel-Gaza border in which dozens of Palestinians were killed, leading to a diplomatic spat that saw the ambassadors and consuls general of both countries expelled or withdrawn to their homelands.
Erdogan, speaking to journalists as he flew from Bosnia-Herzegovina to Turkey on Sunday, said members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, which Turkey currently chairs, should follow through on their resolution to punish countries that recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The OIC also called on its member states and the international community to implement a boycott of products from Israeli West Bank settlements.
“I hope the OIC counties will put the decision of the embargo into practice,” Erdogan said, according to Hurriyet daily. “Of course, we will assess the situation as well. As Turkey, we will evaluate our ties, particularly economic and trade, with [Israel]…. We will take steps in this direction after the elections.”
Turkey’s elections for president and parliament are set for on June 24.
Regarding the recent Gaza border violence, Erdogan noted that the OIC had urged the UN to send a peacekeeping force to protect the Gaza Strip from Israel.
“We think that this will deter them and it will not be easy for Israel to fire at the United Nations forces,” he said.
At an extraordinary meeting of the OIC on Friday, the 57-member council declared in a final communique its “determination to take the appropriate political, economic and other measures against countries which recognize Al-Quds [Jerusalem] as the capital of Israel or relocate their embassies thereto.”
The meeting, hosted by Turkey in Istanbul, was called following violence in Gaza last week during protests timed to coincide with the relocation of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, as well as to mark the Palestinian Nakba, or what Palestinians call the “catastrophe” of Israel’s founding in 1948. Since the US move, Guatemala and Paraguay have both opened embassies in Jerusalem.
Erdogan has long craved a role as a Muslim leader within the entire Islamic world, rarely holding back its tirades against Israel even though Ankara has diplomatic relations with the Jewish state.
In a diplomatic crisis that broke out last week — threatening a 2016 deal that allowed the resumption of full ties after six years of hostility — Turkey ordered the Israeli ambassador to leave for an unspecified period of time.
Turkey had already withdrawn its Tel Aviv ambassador for consultations while Israel ordered the Turkish consul in Jerusalem to leave, also for an unspecified period of time. Hours later, Ankara booted out Israel’s consul.
Erdogan also engaged in a bitter Twitter exchange with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whom he accused of having “the blood of Palestinians” on his hands, while Netanyahu in return accused him of supporting Hamas and being a proponent of “massacres and terror.”
According to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry, 64 Palestinians were killed last Monday and Tuesday when Israeli security forces opened fire as protesters tried to breach the border security fence. Israel said that Hamas, a terror group that seeks to destroy the Jewish state, organized the protests as cover to break through the fence and carry out attacks in Israeli territory.
Many in the international community have criticized Israel for the deaths, while the IDF and Hamas have both noted that most of the dead were members of Gazan terror groups. A Hamas official, Salah Bardawil, said Wednesday that 50 of the fatalities were Hamas members. The Islamic Jihad terror group claimed three others.
Agencies and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.