Turkey-Palestine economic ties deepen amid Israel trade ban

Turkish Palestinian flags
6 min read
Turkey - Istanbul
26 June, 2024

Whilst Turkey has announced a total halt to all trade with Israel until a ceasefire is enacted and unlimited humanitarian aid is allowed into the Gaza Strip, Ankara is also striving to strengthen its economic cooperation with the Palestinian Authority (PA).

Earlier in June, Palestinian Minister for National Economy, Mohammad Alamour, and Turkish Minister of Trade, Omer Bolat, signed a protocol of cooperation which included steps to strengthen bilateral trade in the short and mid-term future.

Under the cooperation protocol, a list of Palestinian agricultural products exempted from customs was added to the pre-existing Turkey-Palestine Free Trade Agreement, which entered into force in 2005. Moreover, a mechanism was created to help ensure the trade in commodities between Turkey and Palestine would be able to continue uninterrupted.

"Earlier in June, Palestinian Minister for National Economy, Mohammad Alamour, and Turkish Minister of Trade, Omer Bolat, signed a protocol of cooperation which included steps to strengthen bilateral trade"

According to the statement released upon the protocol's signing, both sides agreed to hold regular meetings for the joint committee which was formed under the Turkey-Palestine Free Trade Agreement. The Turkish-Palestinian Economic Cooperation Council will also convene periodic meetings chaired by Palestinian and Turkish ministers.

Bolat stressed that his country was fully prepared to strengthen trade relations with Palestine and develop all current frameworks of cooperation, as well as provide all necessary contributions to help develop the Palestinian economy.

Cutting ties with Israel

Ayşe Nur, a member of Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), explained to Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, The New Arab's Arabic-language sister edition, that the way Turkey deals with Palestine doesn't always bow to calculations of profit and loss but springs from "a national and ethical duty".

As evidence of this, she cites that Turkey-Palestine trade continued during the coronavirus pandemic period - with trade to the West Bank exempted from Turkey's trade prohibitions at the time. She says this attitude is mirrored today, with Turkey continuing to send aid via Egypt and promising to play a prominent role in reconstruction.

Ankara is also willing to assist in rehabilitating Gaza's decimated health, education, and service sectors.  

Turkey has cut all trade ties with Israel to exert pressure on the country to agree to a ceasefire and allow aid into Gaza [Getty]

Nur adds that Turkey has consistently called for a ceasefire and ending the siege on Gaza by ensuring the delivery of aid - despite the tensions this has generated in Turkey's relations with European countries and the US.

She also referred to a statement of the D-8 (a Group of Eight Developing Muslim Countries), who met in Istanbul recently and condemned Israel's "brutal and inhuman" aggression against the Palestinian people while calling for a permanent ceasefire and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

Nur also said that the AKP's bloc in Izmir Municipal Council had suggested cancelling the decision to twin with Tel Aviv and to declare all the cities in the Gaza Strip as "twinned cities”.

Most important, in Nur's view, is that Turkey is trying to increase the amount of aid it's sending, strengthen cooperation, and increase mutual trade with Palestine at the same time it has halted trade relations with Israel. Ankara has also committed to maintaining a suspension of trade ties until a ceasefire has been enacted and unrestricted aid has been allowed to enter and reach the besieged people of Gaza.

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Turkey-Palestine trade in the billions

Palestinian researcher Mahmoud Zaghmout believes the Turkish-Palestinian cooperation protocol is an important step towards developing economic activity and increasing mutual trade - especially after the emphasis on the direct exchange of goods, and the fact that some Palestinian companies and products (dates, and certain vegetables and fruits) have been given an advantage through customs exemptions.

However, in Zaghmout's opinion, Israel still stands in the way of trade cooperation with Palestine and will continue to do so as long as it controls the crossings and can maintain and tighten its grip on the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt). However, he says bilateral trade agreements with Palestine increase the hope that relations can be strengthened between the two sides after the war.

Zaghmout indicates that despite the obstacles posed by Israeli oversight and other hindrances, trade between Palestine and Turkey had increased by more than 15 percent in recent years to reach around a billion dollars (officially), though he says, in reality, it is more.

"Turkey is estimated to be Palestine's second largest trading partner"

"Perhaps the improvement in Turkey-Israel relations in recent years may have played a role in this increase," he says, explaining that "shipping from Turkey to the West Bank increased the waybill taxes applied, therefore most of the trade was conducted with Israel in name – so, in reality, the extent of trade may have actually reached two billion dollars."

Faiz Abu Eid, a Palestinian researcher, highlighted the disruption done to trade between Palestine and Turkey since the war on Gaza began but agrees that before October last year it was growing. He expects that Turkey would rank in second place, after Israel, when it comes to Palestine's biggest trading partners.

Israel's brutal war on Gaza has killed over 40,000 Palestinians, including more than 14,000 children. [Getty]

Strengthening ties with Palestine

Turkish analyst Müslüm Uysal praised the protocol for the way it had updated the pre-existing trade agreement and for expanding the list of goods exports and imports between the two countries. He added that the new agreement would enhance trade between the two countries, and would act to provide the Palestinian market with what it needed.

Uysal believes standing on the side of Palestinian rights is a humanitarian and moral duty, and Turkey will stand at the forefront of states offering what they can both in terms of reconstruction assistance and aid.

He anticipates that the Turkish health, education, and construction sectors will play a prominent role in rebuilding the institutional and physical infrastructure which has been destroyed by Israel's war in Gaza and the West Bank.

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Continuing aid efforts

At the Port of Mersin in southern Turkey, charity-owned ships continue to be loaded with emergency aid, with food, clothing, hygiene and shelter equipment, as well as children's supplies, all bound for the Gaza Strip.

In addition to these are medical supplies and ambulances. All this is being done with the support of Turkish institutions like the Independent Industrialists and Businessmen's Association (MUSIAD) and the Directorate General of Foundations.

In addition, the Turkish Red Crescent soup kitchen in Rafah in Gaza is providing hot meals for 10,000 people daily. There are five Turkish Red Crescent staff permanently in Gaza, five in Egypt, two in the West Bank and Jerusalem, and one in Jordan.

The Turkish trade ministry has clarified that the decision to sever economic ties came as the second stage of a series of economic measures enacted by Turkey which aimed to apply pressure on Israel after measures were implemented restricting the export of 54 products in April. The ministry stressed the decisions would be implemented "strictly and decisively until a ceasefire is achieved."

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition. To read the original article click here.

Translated by Rose Chacko

This article is taken from our Arabic sister publication, Al-Araby Al Jadeed and mirrors the source's original editorial guidelines and reporting policies. Any requests for correction or comment will be forwarded to the original authors and editors.

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