Gaza flotilla: Israeli-Turkish trade 'unaffected'

By James Melik
Reporter, Business Daily, BBC World Service


Political tensions are high between Turkey and Israel after the Turkish prime minister called the Israeli commando attack on an aid ship heading for Gaza a "bloody massacre".

Image caption,
Worldwide protests followed the Israeli storming of an aid convoy

However, business relations between the two countries continue as normal.

In terms of volume, Turkey ranks number eight for Israeli trade after the two sides signed a free trade agreement in 2000.

"The business community is upset and a little concerned, but mutual trade is continuing," says the chairman of the Israeli-Turkish Business Council.

Meanwhile, Turkey's defence minister says that the current crisis with Israel would not cause any problems with the delivery of previously ordered unmanned aerial vehicles.

Mutual benefits

The total trade volume between the two countries in 2009 was $2.5bn, according to Turkey's state statistics institute.

Trade ranges from agriculture to military equipment to energy.

Some Israeli companies have joint ventures with Turkish manufacturing facilities, which enables them to export from Turkey to the world.

Those investments do not appear in the statistics on trade between the two countries, suggesting that economic ties between the two are possibly deeper than the figures indicate.

A lot of Israeli tourists also visit Turkey - although many have cancelled holidays because of advice from the Israeli government saying it is not now safe for them to travel there.

Trade unharmed

Menashe Carmon of the Israeli-Turkish Business Council says he does not envisage any major problems unless firms are dealing with a government company.

"But in private talks, people who were positive towards Israeli policies have difficulties in understanding and accepting what has happened," he says.

"We are now at the peak of contention. I believe in a few weeks, things will be clearer and people will have a more moderate reaction," he maintains.

He feels certain that current events will not adversely affect or influence existing projects.

Military deals

Turkey awarded a contract in 2005, ordering 10 drones from Israeli manufacturers Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and Elbit.

In January, Turkish officials said Israel would send four Heron unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to Turkey in March.

The remainder of the order for 10 Herons are set to arrive in Turkey by the end of 2010.

"We expect the remaining Herons to be delivered in June or July," Turkey's National Defence Minister Vecdi Gonul says.

Meanwhile, the Free Gaza Movement is sending two more boats to Gaza and they are expected to arrive in region by Thursday.

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