Israel-Turkey : Erdogan breaks commercial, military relations
07. September 2011. | 08:28
Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, announced the "complete suspension" of military and commercial relations with Tel Aviv, accused Israel of behaving like a "spoiled child" towards the Palestinians, and, in a clearly anti-Israeli controversial tone, did not rule out his intention of making a personal visit to Gaza on the sidelines of his visit next week to Egypt.
Militarily allied with Israel since 1996, Turkey is a step away from formally breaking off all ties with Jerusalem.
Today Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, announced the "complete suspension" of military and commercial relations with Tel Aviv, accused Israel of behaving like a "spoiled child" towards the Palestinians, and, in a clearly anti-Israeli controversial tone, did not rule out his intention of making a personal visit to Gaza on the sidelines of his visit next week to Egypt.
This is a clear provocation, since Gaza is backed by Hamas, a group viewed by Israel as a terrorist organisation. Jerusalem has not replied. Government sources limited themselves to stating that "Israel does not intend to respond" to the most recent statements made by the Turkish premier. Erdogan did not exactly tolerate Israel's lack of an apology for the 9 Turkish citizens who died on May 31 2010 during a raid carried out by Israeli forces in international waters against a pro-Palestinian flotilla. During the raid against the Mavi Marmara ship which was travelling towards the Gaza Strip, 9 Turkish activists were killed.
The deaths of these individuals continue to leave a mark: Until Israel formally apologises, Turkey will not only cease to be Israel's ally, but they will also be openly against them. And today Erdogan, who in recent days had taken an increasingly harsh stance against Israel, hardened his relations with Tel Aviv even further:
"We totally suspend our commercial, military and defence industry ties," he said while speaking with journalists. He added that next week, on the sidelines of his visit to Egypt, he may even go to Gaza.
This is only the most recent act in an escalating diplomatic situation in Turkish-Israeli relations, which are on the brink of being permanently fractured, according to Ankara.
On September 2 Turkey had already expelled the Israeli ambassador to Ankara and announced that it has turned to the International Court of Justice to challenge the legality of the Israeli blockade on Gaza.
Turkish ships "will be seen more frequently in those waters," said Erdogan today, referring to international waters in the eastern Mediterranean facing the Gaza Strip. The Turkish Premier's change in tone is clear.
Turkey's irritation comes in the wake of the publication last week of a UN report on the incident involving the boarding of the Mavi Marmara. The report explains that the Israeli Army made use of "excessive and unreasonable" force against the Turkish boat.
Nonetheless, the report acknowledges the legality of the naval blockade imposed by Israel on Gaza, and this is what has irritated Turkey.
In view of the most recent developments, the change in Turkey's position in the Mediterranean has become increasingly evident. The country that has always been seen over the last decade by Western diplomats as the true potential 'bridge' towards Islam (the military cooperation deal between Israel and Turkey dates back to 1996), is now in more of an anti-Israeli position than ever before.
Erdogan's words made this clear. But Turkish Industry Minister, Zafer Caglayan, made it a point to specify that the suspension of commercial relations only affects the military industry. An important point: from January to July, the overall figure for bilateral trade between Turkey and Israel this year amounted to over 2.7 billion dollars.