Erdogan hints Turkey may ban some Israeli goods because of Gaza violence

A supporter holds a scarf with an image of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a pre-election rally in Sarajevo, on May 20, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 22 May 2018
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Erdogan hints Turkey may ban some Israeli goods because of Gaza violence

ISTANBUL: President Tayyip Erdogan has hinted that Turkey might consider imposing a ban on imports of some Israeli goods over the killing of Palestinian protesters by Israeli forces on the Gaza border, media reported on Tuesday.
Erdogan, who is campaigning for re-election in June, last week hosted Muslim leaders who condemned the events in Gaza and the opening of the United States embassy in Jerusalem.
Speaking to reporters on a return flight from Bosnia on Sunday, Erdogan said the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) had recommended that a boycott be imposed on Israeli goods.
“I hope that OIC member countries implement a boycott decision in line with the recommendation. Consequently, no product should be brought from there any more. Naturally we will assess this situation in the same way,” Hurriyet newspaper reported Erdogan as saying.
A declaration by the OIC on Friday repeated a call for countries to ban “products of the illegal Israeli settlements from entering their markets,” referring to goods produced in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Golan Heights.
It did not seek a ban on all Israeli goods.
The declaration also called for “economic restrictions (on) countries, officials, parliaments, companies or individuals” who followed the United States and moved their embassies to Jerusalem.
US President Donald Trump’s move to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and shift the US embassy there reversed decades of US policy, upsetting the Arab world and Western allies.
Erdogan said last week that Trump’s move had emboldened Israel to put down the protests at the border with Gaza with excessive force, likening the actions of Israeli forces to Nazi Germany’s treatment of Jews in World War Two, when millions were killed in concentration camps.
The violence in Gaza, where more than 60 Palestinians were killed on May 14 led to Turkey and Israel expelling each other’s senior diplomats. Erdogan also traded barbs on Twitter with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Israel was the 10th-largest market for Turkish exports in 2017, buying some $3.4 billion of goods, according to IMF statistics.
Data from Turkey’s statistics institute showed that trade volume between the two was at $4.9 billion in 2017. Turkey, which has a trade surplus with Israel, imports plastics and mineral oils among other goods from there.
Erdogan said Turkey would reconsider its ties with Israel.
“We will put our relations on the table, in particular our economic and trade relations. We have an election ahead of us. After the election we will take our steps in this direction,” Erdogan was quoted as saying.


Jumblatt expresses concern over torture of Syrian refugees

Syrian children are pictured at a refugee camp in the village of Mhammara in the northern Lebanese Akkar region on March 9, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 19 March 2019
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Jumblatt expresses concern over torture of Syrian refugees

  • UN official stresses ‘urgent need to ensure’ their ‘safe, voluntary and dignified return’
  • Some 215,000 Syrian students are currently enrolled in Lebanon's schools 

BEIRUT: Lebanese Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt has expressed concern about reports that Syrian refugees returning to their country from Lebanon face torture and murder.

This coincides with a debate in Lebanon about whether Syrian refugees should return without waiting for a political solution to the conflict in their country. 

UN Special Coordinator Jan Kubis stressed after meeting with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Monday the “urgent need to ensure the safe, voluntary and dignified return of Syrian refugees home, according to international humanitarian norms.” 

Kubis added: “The UN and the humanitarian community will continue to facilitate these returns as much as possible. Another very important message was also to support the host communities here in Lebanon.”

Mireille Girard, representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), on Monday said: “The reconstruction process in Syria may not be enough to attract refugees to return. We are working to identify the reasons that will help them to return.”

She added: “The arrival of aid to the refugees is an element of trust that helps them to return. Their dignity and peaceful living must be ensured.”

Social Affairs Minister Richard Kouyoumdjian said the Lebanese General Security “issued lists containing the names of refugees wishing to return to their homes, but the Syrian regime accepted only about 20 percent of them.”

He added: “The solution is to call on the international community to put pressure on Russia, so that Moscow can exert pressure on (Syrian President) Bashar Assad’s regime to show goodwill and invite Syrian refugees to return to their land without conditions, procedures, obstacles and laws that steal property and land from them.”

Lebanese Education Minister Akram Chehayeb said: “The problem is not reconstruction and infrastructure, nor the economic and social situation. The main obstacle is the climate of fear and injustice in Syria.”

He added: “There are 215,000 Syrian students enrolled in public education in Lebanon, 60,000 in private education, and there are informal education programs for those who have not yet attended school to accommodate all children under the age of 18.” 

Chehayeb said: “As long as the displacement crisis continues, and as long as the (Assad) regime’s decision to prevent the (refugees’) return stands … work must continue to absorb the children of displaced Syrians who are outside education to protect Lebanon today and Syria in the future.”