Erdogan Hot Air: Turkey Not Cutting Trade Ties

Despite Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's bombastic rhetoric, Turkey is not cutting trade ties with Israel now.

Gabe Kahn. ,

Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Israel news photo: Flash 90

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan clarified Tuesday that his government has not suspended economic ties with Israel, but has declared a cessation of military and high-level diplomatic contacts.

"Trade ties, military ties regarding defence industry ties, we are completely suspending them. This process will be followed by different measures," Erdogan had bombastically told reporters in Ankara on Monday.

It was later reported by the Wall Street Journal that a spokesman for Erdogan said the prime minister had been referring in his remarks only to trade in defense goods, and not to trade in general - explaining the contradiction off as a 'translation error' despite uniformity in reporting in the Turkish and international media.

Turkish Economy Minister Zafer Caglayan said on Monday that Ankara would do nothing "for now" to change its economic relationship with Israel.

According to the WSJ report, the halt in trade will only apply to commercial ties that the Turkish government and its army have with Israel, and which involve mainly Israeli security exports. Such deals are estimated to be worth several million dollars a year – a tiny fraction of Israeli exports to Turkey which totaled $13 billion in 2010.

A Turkish official who spoke on condition of anonymity said, "Erdogan could not suspend all commercial ties even if he wanted to. With all due respect, Turkey is a democracy and Mr. Erdogan cannot tell businessmen where they should do business, not unless the Turkish parliament declares Israel an enemy state, and there is no such proposal on the table."

Defense Ministry Diplomatic-Security Bureau head Amos Gilad told Israel Radio Tuesday that Turkey has not frozen military ties with Israel, either. Gilad noted Israel's military attache in Ankara was working as usual and had not been asked to leave.

Recent tensions between Ankara and Jerusalem stem from Turkish demands that Israel apologize for the deaths of 9 of its nationals who attempted to lynch Israeli commandos who boarded the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara in 2010, pay reparations, and terminate its blockade of Gaza.

Israel has expressed regret for the loss of lives, but remains adamant that no official apology for the naval operation will be issued. The lives could just as easily been Israeli, as the IDF soldiers were armed mainly with paint guns and some pistols.

Israel's position is in accordance with The Palmer Report, commissioned by the United Nations, which concluded Israel's blockade of Gaza is "legal and appropriate."

The UN report has been dismissed by Ankara as biased.

Turkey has already announced that it will not back down from its demand for an apology and said it would seek legal recourse against Israel at the International Court of Justice, a reaction brushed off by Prime MInsiter Netanyahu.

Israeli officials noted the ICC can only hear cases in which both nations agree to the hearing and, as a result, Ankara was holding "a pistol firing blanks."