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Israel Says Normalizing Ties with Turkey Hinges on Closure of Hamas’ Istanbul Office

Israel Says Normalizing Ties with Turkey Hinges on Closure of Hamas’ Istanbul Office

Tuesday, 19 January, 2021 - 06:45
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, shakes hands with Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh, prior to their meeting in Istanbul, February 1, 2020. (AP)

Israel relayed a statement to Ankara that there would be no thaw in relations until the Hamas office in Istanbul is shut down, the Israel’s Ynet reported on Monday.

Israel has made this a precondition to returning its ambassador to Ankara.

Israel issued a statement to Turkey on Monday, saying it will not normalize its relations with Ankara until it shutters the activities of the Hamas office, which effectively operates as a military wing.

The office is responsible for directing terrorist activities in the West Bank, recruiting Palestinians for terrorist activities, financing terrorist activities in the West Bank and transferring funds to Hamas' military infrastructure, political sources in Tel Aviv told Ynet.

Bilateral ties between Ankara and Tel Aviv have been strained for over a decade, ever since the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident, when Israeli soldiers seized the “freedom flotilla” sailing towards the Gaza Strip in an attempt to break the blockade against it.

Both countries pulled out their ambassadors respectively in 2018, downgrading their ties to the level of charges d'affaires.

The crisis did not impact economic, commercial and tourist ties between them. In fact, the cooperation increased and Haifa Port became a key station for Turkish trade to the Arab world (via Jordan). The volume of trade between the two sides exceeds USD6 billion.

Ankara would like better ties with Israel, but the Israeli policy towards the Palestinians remains “unacceptable”, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said last month.

“The Palestine policy is our red line. It is impossible for us to accept Israel’s Palestine policies. Their merciless acts there are unacceptable,” he added.

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