September 7, 2011

Turkey and Israel Tensions Mount

Turkey was a diplomatic friend not a decade ago, but recent political and social changes have moved the new Islamic government of Turkey away from friendly relations with Israel.  The flotilla incident didn't help relations at all, which if you recall resulted in the deaths of 8 Turkish individuals about a year ago.  Since then, the standoff between the two nations has escalated and now economic trade is the latest blow to the relationship as trade relations have now officially been frozen.

Could this be a fulfillment of prophecy?  In Ezekiel 38 & 39, Russia and Turkey lead a coalition against Israel, attacking them in the battle of 'Gog and Magog.'  Turkey and Russia are now on friendly terms as well.

From the WSJ:
ISTANBUL—Turkey's prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said Tuesday that his country was suspending defense trade with Israel and that Turkish naval vessels would be seen in the eastern Mediterranean more often, as Ankara ratcheted up pressure in a rising dispute with its former ally.
Speaking to reporters in Ankara after giving a speech at the Ankara Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Erdogan repeated plans announced Friday to downgrade diplomatic relations with the Jewish state and suspend military agreements, specifying that the suspension would include trade in defense goods.  "Trade relations, military relations, defense industry—these we will suspend. These will be completely frozen and that process will be followed also by very different sanctions," Mr. Erdogan said.
Those measures still to come would be a "Plan C" to the "Plan B" already announced, he added.  So far, Turkey has announced no general trade sanctions against Israel. A spokesman for Mr. Erdogan said the prime minister had been referring in his remarks only to trade in defense goods, and not to trade in general. On Monday, Turkey's economy minister had said there would be no broader trade sanctions "for now."
The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declined to comment Tuesday. Other Israeli officials contacted said privately that they don't wish to engage Mr. Erdogan in a public debate so as not to be seen as further aggravating political ties.
Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Turkey has said it is responding to Israel's continued refusal to apologize for the killing by Israeli commandos of eight Turkish citizens and one Turkish-American on board the Mavi Marmara aid ship, as it sought to break Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip in May last year.
Zalman Shoval, a former Israeli ambassador to the U.S. who works with the Israeli government, called Mr. Erdogan's comments part of Turkey's "childish'' reaction to the United Nations report released last week that stated the blockade was justified, but that Israel's use of force was "excessive and unreasonable."
Turkey and Israel did nearly $3.5 billion of trade in 2010, according to official Turkish figures, a record reached during a sharp downturn in the political relationship. Moreover, trade rose more than 25% in the first half of this year, compared with the same period last year, Israeli and Turkish figures show.
Separate data for defense-related trade weren't available. Past major deals, however, included a $600 million-$700 million agreement under which Israel modernized Turkey's aging Phantom F-4 jets, and a $668 million pact to upgrade its M-60 tanks. Last year, Turkey took delivery of 10 Israeli-built Heron unmanned aerial vehicles, a $183 million deal.
Officials and analysts say those contracts are complete and no new large agreements have been signed for several years as political relations soured. Now, the main potential loss is the purchase of spare parts from Israel, should Turkey strictly enforce its own embargo. Turkey's defense exports to Israel tend to be lower-end equipment, such as uniforms, analysts said.
A report released last month by Tepav, an Ankara-based think tank, said past Turkish threats to cut off trade with Israel haven't hit trade as a whole, which has seen a healthy expansion. Most of the business is in the private sector and the two economies complement each other, the report said. Turkey is strong in construction, chemicals and textiles, while Israel offers software and other technology products from industries that are weak elsewhere in the region.
"Business has become an area immune from political upheavals," the report said. "The threats of canceling large infrastructure projects and other joint ventures have not gone beyond words. As a matter of fact, most of the projects involve private companies. Furthermore, boycotting of member nations is against OECD rules."
Both Turkey and Israel are members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Responding to a question about reports that Turkey would begin patrolling waters off Israel and whether that risked conflict, Prime Minister Erdogan said Turkey had a right to do so. "The eastern Mediterranean is not a foreign place to us. … Of course, our vessels will be seen from now on very often in these waters," he said.
He also confirmed he would be traveling to Egypt soon, and said he "might" visit Gaza. A spokesman for Mr. Erdogan said the visit to Cairo would take place between Sept. 12 and 14.

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