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DIPLOMACY >Turkey intensifies efforts for lasting truce, supplying aid to Gaza

ANKARA / JERUSALEM

Ankara breaks the ice with Israel to push for a truce in Gaza, while securing a deal to ship aid to the under-fire Palestinian territory

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Muslims perform the morning Eid al-Fitr prayer in front of the Dome of Rock at the al-Aqsa mosque compound, Islam’s third holiest site in the old city of Jerusalem. AFP Photo

Muslims perform the morning Eid al-Fitr prayer in front of the Dome of Rock at the al-Aqsa mosque compound, Islam’s third holiest site in the old city of Jerusalem. AFP Photo

Turkey has intensified its efforts to produce a lasting cease-fire between Hamas and Israel and to open transportation channels to supply humanitarian aid to Gaza, as the Israeli army eased its assaults in the Hamas-controlled enclave.

Ankara will send 17 tons of medication to Gaza, in a fresh development that followed rare dialogue between Turkey and Israel.

“As a result of our efforts until late [July 27], a temporary cease-fire could be possible. ... We hope this cease-fire will continue. We will do our best to extend this cease-fire,” Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu told reporters early July 28.

Davutoğlu said he continued his phone diplomacy with all relevant parties, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal and Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed al-Attiyah until late July 27, adding that his efforts would continue in due course.

“We are calling once again the international community to be sensitive toward the human tragedy in Gaza and the Muslim world to stand united in such hard days. We have called the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to hold an extraordinary meeting next week,” Davutoğlu said.

The foreign minister expressed his hope that Israel would cease its offensive against Gaza as Muslims celebrate Eid al-Fitr. “Turkey will continue to be on the side of Palestine. Their cause is our cause.”

Turkey and international community have been pressing for an agreement that would bring about a lasting cease-fire along with some provisions that would secure an interrupted flow of humanitarian aid to Gaza enclave. Davutoğlu said that would include the establishment of an aerial bridge from Turkey to Israel for the transport of humanitarian supplies to nearly 2 million Gazans who live under hard conditions.

Ban said the parties to the conflict in Gaza had “expressed serious interest” in his request for a further 24-hour humanitarian cease-fire, but “have not yet agreed on the timing of its implementation.”

“The situation now is an unlimited truce,” Israel’s chief military spokesman, Brig. Gen. Motti Almoz, told Israel Radio. “The IDF [Israeli Defense Forces] are free to attack after any fire if there is any.”
Hamas said July 27 it wanted a 24-hour truce to mark the Eid al-Fitr. In the hours after its announcement, Gaza gradually fell quiet.

However, the lull appeared fragile. Sirens warning of incoming rockets from Gaza sounded in some Israeli communities near the border.

17 tons of medication

With conditions worsening in Gaza and the territory’s medical infrastructure nearing collapse due to Israeli attacks, Turkey has decided to send 17 tons of medication and necessary medical equipment to the enclave. The transfers will be conducted via cargo planes that will land in Israel. The necessary procedure for the transportation was arranged in a phone conversation between the Turkish and Israel Foreign Ministry undersecretaries.

As suggested by Davutoğlu, Turkey’s purpose is to establish a durable aerial bridge between Turkey to Gaza for the transportation of food and other immediate needs.

Likewise Davutoğlu, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is also very focused on supplying humanitarian aid to the Gaza people. When asked about the possibility of establishing an aerial bridge, Erdoğan said: “These are all parts of the cease-fire [agreement]. From the air, land or sea, these all can be possible [once] a cease-fire is provided. I want this provided. Mr. Ahmet [Davutoğlu] insistently told Mr. Kerry about this. If this can be done, we can [provide] food or medication [to Gaza] from Turkey.”

Erdoğan not hopeful on truce

Erdoğan, however, did not appear hopeful that Israel would agree to a lasting cease-fire. “Israel is constantly changing its position. And Hamas does not believe in them,” he said, accusing Israel of violating truces it has agreed to.

The parties should first declare a one-week cease-fire and while negotiations for a lasting truce are continuing, humanitarian aid could be transported to Gaza, he said, but added that Israel did not agree to such an agreement.

“My foreign minister was in Doha for the last three days and he went to Paris from there. Before him my undersecretary of National Intelligence Organization was also there. We are in constant talks with all parties. My wish is that this cease-fire will be reached and there will be no more deaths,” he said.

Row with Egypt


Israel’s operation against Gaza also caused fresh rows in Turkey’s ties with Egypt and the United States. Erdoğan’s description of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi as a “tyrant” has created strong unease in Cairo as it summoned the Turkish chargé d’affaires to the Foreign Ministry to emphasize that such language would further worsen relations.

“If you do not extend your hand to help Gaza, then you should allow us to say whatever necessary.

This is a warning,” he said. “But our problem is not with the Egyptian people but its administration. This administration came after a coup. I do not recognize el-Sisi as the president.”

July/28/2014

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