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News > World

Egypt to Israel: Don't Lift Gaza Blockade in Deal with Turkey

  • Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.

    Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi. | Photo: Reuters

Published 8 January 2016

Israel may be ready to lift its blockade of Gaza to improve diplomatic and commercial relations with Turkey, but anxiety from Egypt may prevent significant action.

Egypt has told Israel to keep Turkey out of Gaza as part of a reconciliation deal, fearing that any easing of the Israeli maritime siege could undermine its own land blockade against the Palestinian territory.

Senior officials from Egypt’s foreign ministry met with their Israeli counterparts Thursday to express concern over the recent rapprochement with Turkey, Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported. High Israeli and Turkish officials met in Switzerland two weeks ago to patch relations soured over the Mavi Marmara incident in 2010, when Israeli commandos killed 10 Turkish activists carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza — an act that the International Criminal Court deemed a war crime.

Alhough Turkey is an outspoken critic of Israeli policy, the two share strong commercial interests and have tried various times to normalize relations. Turkey has long been eyeing Israeli weapons — notably drones and surveillance systems, reported Today’s Zaman — and potential gas pipelines to divert dependency on Russian imports. A day before the latest meeting was announced, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signed a deal to develop an offshore gas field.

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The details of the agreement have not yet been released. Though reconciliation appears close, Israel is aware any deal could upset its Russian and Egyptian allies.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan does not recognize Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi’s presidency, instead supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, victim of a coup d’etat and subsequent government suppression. He also has close ties with Hamas leaders, many of whom live in Turkey and also identify with the Muslim Brotherhood movement. During talks with Israel, Erdogan and Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu met with Hamas chief Khaled Mashal. Before el-Sissi seized power, Turkey transported aid to Gaza through the Rafah border crossing controlled by Egypt.

The rift between the two has complicated the prospects of a Turkey-Israel agreement, reported Haaretz. The main point in question is whether Israel would lift its siege by granting Turkey “unlimited access” to send aid to Gaza. Turkey’s end of the deal is rumored to be an end to its anti-Israel rhetoric and to Hamas activity in Turkey.

The talks have already produced a framework for reconciliation, but the extent of Israel’s lifting of the blockade is not yet resolved.

Netanyahu said in late December that Israel "won’t change our policy on the naval blockade,” reported i24. “We are transferring equipment to Gaza and assisting in its reconstruction, but we won’t concede our security."
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