Decision to fully sever economic ties with Israel; Talks between the government and the main opposition leader; Critical statements by Foreign Minister Fidan

Decision to fully sever economic ties with Israel; Talks between the government and the main opposition leader; Critical statements by Foreign Minister Fidan

Last week, in response to the Israeli atrocities in Gaza, Türkiye announced that it decided to completely sever economic ties with Israel.

The meeting between the government and the main opposition leader after many years received a large press and public attention.

Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan also made important statements in his broad interview with Al Arabiya.

Decision to fully sever economic ties with Israel

After 7 months since the Israeli army initiated a ground operation in Gaza at the end of October, Türkiye has decided to completely sever its already limited economic ties with Israel. The decision includes a complete halt to exports and imports.

The Ministry of Trade stated that exports and imports with Israel will be halted until “the Israeli government allows uninterrupted and sufficient humanitarian aid to Gaza.” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan grounded the decision saying “The entire West is working for Israel. We could not wait any longer and took steps.”

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz commented on Türkiye’s decision stating, “President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan violates agreements by blocking Israel’s import and export ports. This is how a dictator, who disregards the interests of the Turkish people and businesspeople, and ignores international trade agreements, acts.”

Last month, Türkiye restricted the export of 54 product groups to Israel due to Israeli attacks in Gaza. These products primarily included construction materials, especially construction iron.

According to the Turkish Statistical Institute (TÜİK) data, the trade between the two countries was $6.8 billion in 2023. Türkiye’s exports to Israel accounted for 76% of this trade. The same year in March, Türkiye’s exports to Israel amounted to $437 million, while imports were $167.3 million.

In the first quarter of 2024, Israel ranked 12th among the countries to which Türkiye exported the most, and it ranked 32nd in imports.

Talks between the government and the main opposition leader

President and Justice and Development Party (AKP) Chairman Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the leader of the main opposition party, Republican People’s Party (CHP), Özgür Özel, held a meeting at the AKP headquarters. This one and half hour meeting marked the first meeting between the leaders of the ruling party and the main opposition in the past 8 years.

Özgür Özel also met with the Chairman of the partner of the ruling AKP, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Devlet Bahçeli.

The closed-door meeting was attended by AKP Vice Chairman Mustafa Elitaş and CHP’s Istanbul Deputy and former Turkish Ambassador to Washington, Namık Tan.

President Erdoğan expressed his content with the visit of Özgür Özel stating, “I will visit the CHP at the earliest opportunity. Turkish politics needs this. Let’s initiate a process of political reconciliation in Türkiye.”

Özel described the meeting as “an important milestone for Turkish democracy.” CHP Chairman stressed that periods where politicians do not shake each other’s hands and engage in dialogue have historically been disastrous for democracy, and recalled that the period between 1977 and 1980 was such alluding to the military coup onn 12th September 1980.

Özel concluded “We will follow how the talks will result in the coming days, weeks, and months.”

CHP Chairman replied to a question Regarding the presence of CHP Istanbul deputy and former ambassador to Washington Namık Tan in the meeting by saying “Before visiting President Erdoğan, I visited the last elected impartial President, Mr. Ahmet Necdet Sezer. My visit was both to thank him for his kind congratulatory message, to seek his advice and assistance about some of my questions before meeting with a president. His advice to me was as follows: The presidential office has its own private secretary and protocol department, which is why it would be appropriate for me to appoint one of the ambassadors in our party to handle this protocol, scheduling, and continuation in coordination with our private secretary. So I appointed Namık Tan.”

Özel also mentioned he had made a proposal to Erdoğan on the “establishment of a Ministry of Earthquake Affairs”:

“In the event of an earthquake in Istanbul, millions of people could die. If we are not fully prepared for this earthquake, the Turkish economy will collapse. Türkiye will also lose its connection with the financial world. We may lose some companies’ executives and their headquarters. Connection between Europe and Asia may disappear. It may become impossible to deliver humanitarian aid. This issue is not solely a matter for the government, nor a matter that Istanbuk municipality can address on its own, nor an area for the opposition politics. The issue itself is a matter of survival for the country. (…) I suggested to Mr. Erdoğan to establish a ministry specifically for earthquakes.”

MHP leader Bahçeli and CHP Chairman Özgür Özel hold a one-on-one meeting at the Turkish Grand National Assembly for 45 minutes. The party leaders did not make any statements following the meeting.

However, Özgür Özel talked about that “quietness”: “I leave it to public opinion not to provide further details on his (Behçeli) evaluations. I would like to express that we will respect all statements that could be made by them.”

Meanwhile, the leader of the Vatan Party, Doğu Perinçek, made remarks about the Erdoğan-Özel meeting during a television program. Perinçek pointed out the presence of Namık Tan, Türkiye’s former Ambassador to Washington, in the CHP delegation during the meeting.

Perinçek considered Tan’s participation, who had served in the US and Israel, as noteworthy: “Namık Tan is known in our foreign affairs and Turkish politics as one of the personalities excessively dependent on the US. So, in a sense, the US was also present at that meeting.”

Perinçek replied to the question of whether the US requested Tan’s presence in the meeting: “I’m not saying the US requested, but Namık Tan is a person known for his close ties to the US. He is one of the important figures of the Atlantic system within Türkiye. So, it seems this meeting provides some opportunities for the interest of the US or may even be signaling a new phase under the US’s control.”

Critical statements by Foreign Minister Fidan

Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan’s words in his extended interview with Al Arabiya were one of the notable news of the last week.

Fidan first explained Türkiye’s steps regarding Gaza, stating that Türkiye’s priority is to achieve a ceasefire and Türkiye is working in close contact with Qatar for that. “We try to mobilize the international system for humanitarian aid to Gaza and for a two-state solution, which we see as a strategic and permanent solution. (…) The fact that the negotiations conducted by Qatar and Egypt do not seem to have yielded any results at the moment does not mean that the negotiation positions of these two countries are unsuccessful. The issue is difficult, and Israel has a very non-compromising attitude here.

“We provide all the support we can to Hamas (…) We also shared our views with HAMAS officials, especially on the need for them to take a position on the two-state solution and the expectations of the international community. Israel demonizes HAMAS as an irrational, non-compromising constant threat to conceal its own goals and intentions.”

“Israel should accept the 1967 borders and give up with its border extension plans, but Hamas clearly states that it accepts the establishment of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders. Hamas even goes further by saying ‘After the state is established, we will hand over our weapons to the Palestinian army and continue our existence only as a political movement.’”

Regarding the potential escalation of the conflict spreading to the region, Fidan stated, “We had already pointed out this possibility in our previous analyses. While trying to achieve a ceasefire so that more people would not die, no one had thought that Yemen would become involved and that the Red Sea could be blocked by the Houthis.

He also addressed the tension between Israel and Iran: “We warned about it. This tension could also herald a bigger war. Although the situation seems calm for now, this potential always exists.


We contacted both the Americans and the Iranians to prevent misunderstandings beyond their intentions. If both sides were to take positions according to the worst-case scenario, we could have ended up in a permanent war, which would have caused more social suffering in the whole region.”

Fidan then talked on the relations between Türkiye and Saudi Arabia:

“Our President has met with both the King and the Crown Prince on several occasions. They took extremely strategic decisions. We have a consensus on achieving a ceasefire in Palestine, starting humanitarian aid immediately, and establishing a sovereign, free Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders. Not only do we have a consensus, but we also have unity in action on this matter.”

Regarding defense industry collaboration between the two countries Fidan stated:

“Türkiye has certain capabilities in the defense industry. There are ongoing advanced projects to share these capabilities with brotherly countries and turn them into joint investments. We have very important defense industry cooperation with Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar. In addition to this, we have collaborations in the fields of economy, finance and investment. How can we further advance these? We are seeking an answer to this question. Our goal is to institutionalize our relations. Just like Western countries do among themselves, how can we develop a cooperation platform with more rational projects beneficial to everyone, providing the welfare and security our societies deserve? We want to achieve these goals together.”

Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan also made an evaluation on Libya in the interview: Fidan said that Türkiye’s priority is ending the armed conflict between the east and the west.

“If there is no armed conflict, we believe this peace period will offer a great opportunity, especially for a political solution. That’s what’s actually happening now. As you mentioned, increasing our contacts with the east, increasing the east’s contacts with the west, our talks with Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, especially exchanging views on Libya are extremely important. If Egypt, the UAE, Qatar and Türkiye sit around a table with actors from both the east and the west, we will see how close we are to a solution.”

Regarding the maritime jurisdiction agreement signed with Libya and Egypt’s stance, Fidan stated: “We have agreements with Egypt. Our agreement with Libya is a separate one. But of course, we would like to discuss with Egypt and reach a point on the situation in the Mediterranean. There are other actors in the Mediterranean, but I don’t want to mention them right now.”

Hakan Fidan then addressed the developing relations between Türkiye and Iraq in recent times:

“Until recently, the Baghdad administration saw the PKK only as a problem in the Kurdish region, so the central government did not develop any initiative on it. However, when we proved the existence of PKK activities in Sinjar, Sulaymaniyah, Mahmur and some disputed areas, the Baghdad administration was convinced that this issue needed to be addressed by the central government.


“The signing of the Türkiye-Iraq Development Road Project during our President’s visit to Baghdad is very important. When implemented, goods coming from the Gulf will be transported to Europe through Iraq and Türkiye, and vice versa. It’s a tremendous project. Along this route, there will not only be railways and highways but also oil and natural gas pipelines. This certainly makes the project more strategic. The presence of uncontrolled armed terrorist organizations cannot be tolerated along the route of such a strategic project. Because without a secure environment, you cannot attract international finance to that region.

“We are currently looking into what concrete steps we can take in coordination with the Iraqi government to fight the PKK. We need a coordination mechanism. But before that, we need to see that the Iraqi side perceives this organization as a threat and demonstrates the will to take action. Once we see that, the coordination process will naturally follow. If the purpose of coordination is to obstruct Türkiye’s operations, then it wouldn’t be coordination; it would be something else.”

“On Syria, our position is very clear. Just like in Libya, we wish to establish political order within the country. We desire that basic services reach all segments of the population in this country. We are ready to provide all kinds of support about it.


There are several issues that Türkiye is sensitive about. Firstly, there are the 3.5 million Syrian brothers and sisters we are currently hosting in our country. They fled the civil war and came to Türkiye. They have been our guests for over 10 years, they live with us. For them to be able to rebuild their lives in their own country, the Syrian regime needs to take steps.

Secondly, there are another 5 million Syrian brothers and sisters living under the control of the opposition in Syria. If there is conflict in that region, some of these brothers and sisters may have to come to Türkiye. We have taken measures to prevent this and to ensure the nutrition, health, and education services, as well as the security for that people.


Another important issue for us is the presence of the PKK terrorist organization just across our 911-kilometer border with Syria. We cannot tolerate this. We cannot compromise on this issue. We will continue our fight against terrorism. If we can do this in coordination with the Syrian regime, all the better. Otherwise, we will continue this fight on our own.”

United World International

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May 2024