Turkey enforces trade restrictions on Israel until Gaza ceasefire

Turkey's Trade Ministry announced that the country would impose restrictions on exports to Israel, encompassing various products such as steel and jet fuel, until a ceasefire is declared in Gaza. This marks Ankara's initial substantial sanction against Israel following six months of conflict.

Duvar English & Reuters

Turkey will restrict exports of a wide range of products to Israel, including steel and jet fuel, until a ceasefire is declared in Gaza, the Turkish Trade Ministry said on April 9, in Ankara's first significant measure against Israel after six months of war.

Turkey has denounced Israel for its military campaign on Gaza that killed at least 33,207 Palestinians and wounded 75,933 as of April 8. Ankara has called for an immediate ceasefire, supported steps to try Israel for genocide, and sent thousands of tons of aid for Gazans.

However, Ankara also maintained commercial ties with Israel despite its strong rhetoric, prompting a domestic backlash.

In a statement following Ankara's announcement that it would be taking measures after Israel rejected its request to take part in an aid air-drop, the ministry said the restrictions would take effect as of April 9.

It said the measures would apply to the export of products from 54 different categories, including iron, marble, steel, cement, aluminium, brick, fertilizer, construction equipment and products, aviation fuel, and more.

"This decision will remain in place until Israel, under its obligations emanating from international law, urgently declares a ceasefire in Gaza and allows the unhindered flow of sufficient humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip," it said.

Shortly after the Israel's siege on Gaza started, Turkey and Israel pulled back their ambassadors. Tuesday's move is the first significant measure taken by Ankara against Israel since the start of the war. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has faced growing criticism over his government's commercial ties to Israel.

Police detained dozens of protestors demanding an end to the trade with Israel in Istanbul on April 6. Authorities suspended two police officers involved in the incident, as the government works to restore popular support after a thumping opposition win in March 31 local elections.

Erdoğan's stance toward Israel and the conflict in Gaza was a key factor for some of his party's losses in the vote, with the Islamist New Welfare Party (YRP) increasing its support on the back of a more hardline stance on Gaza.

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 so far, and were worth $423.2 million in March.

Total exports in the first quarter of the year amounted to $1.1 billion, down 21.6% year-on-year, TIM data showed.

CHP says decision taken with delay of 185 days

The main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) Deputy Chair for Trade Policies Volkan Demir stated that the party found the Trade Ministry's decision to restrict exports to Israel insufficient. Demir said, "As CHP, we support the decision to restrict exports to Israel. However, we think that this decision is insufficient to protect the interests of our country and the peace of our region."

Stating that the government was forced to take this decision as a result of the pressure of the people, Demir noted, "While the government condemned the attacks on Gaza, it continued its trade with Israel and took the restriction decision with a delay of 185 days. This situation shows how insensitive the government is to the demands and warnings of our people."

Israel says Turkey has chosen to support Hamas, comes with economic price

Israel's foreign minister said that Turkey has "unilaterally violated" trade agreements with its decision to restrict exports to Israel, and that Israel will respond with its own trade restrictions on products coming from Turkey.

Foreign Minister Israel Katz said that President Erdoğan "is again sacrificing the economic interests of the people of Turkey in order to support Hamas, and we will respond in kind."