AKP deputy chair backs trade relations with Israel

Ruling AKP Deputy Chair Nihat Zeybekci has backed Turkey’s trade relations with Israel while condemning its “massacre of Muslim babies.” Zeybekci said Turkey has a free trade agreement with Israel which “we sell six and buy one.”

Duvar English

Turkish ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) Deputy Chair Nihat Zeybekci has commented on the country’s controversial trade relations with Israel at a marble fair in the Aegean province of İzmir, the daily Evrensel reported on April 19.

Zeybekci said they condemn Israel’s “massacre of Muslim babies,” but some parts of their trades “don’t harm anyone.” 

“Israel is a country with which we have a free trade agreement. It is a country where we sell six and buy one. We need to be more sensitive. Sensitive work should be done, maybe in the form of registration rather than banned products. As you know, Denizli is a city that is Turkey's largest copper cable exporter. We also have friends with very important connections in Israel,” he added.

In response, the Labor Party’s (EMEP) Denizli organization deemed Zeybekci “hypocrite,” and added that “continuing trade with Israel while acknowledging that it is a murderer means” that the AKP values money more.

After the criticisms, Zeybekci argued in a social media post on April 20 that “our Palestinian brothers and sisters can also freely buy Turkish goods” with the free trade agreement with Israel. 

“The registration method is a more effective method than the banned product list. By registering all exports to Israel, every product is registered and permitted, while every product and company sold is controlled. In this way, we would prevent many more victimizations, such as the victimizations of our companies that currently receive hundreds of millions of dollars in tenders and give tens of millions of dollars in letters of guarantee. The victimization of dozens of Palestinian companies would also be prevented,” he continued.

Following strong reactions and dozens of protests of Ankara for continuing commercial ties with Israel despite its strong rhetoric against the military campaign on Gaza, Turkey has imposed restrictions on exports to Israel, encompassing various products such as steel and jet fuel, until a ceasefire is declared in Gaza.

Turkey’s trade relations with Israel have especially drawn ire after independent journalist Metin Cihan exposed that Turkish government enterprises and crony capitalists have continued trading with Israel despite its bombardment of Gaza since October.

According to the data published by the Turkish Exporters Assembly (TIM), while trade with Israel has fallen since Oct. 7, exports to Israel have increased each month in 2024.

Some experts argued that the trade relations with Israel were a key factor for the local election defeat of the AKP, with the Islamist New Welfare Party (YRP) increasing its support on the back of a more hardline stance in favor of Palestine.