Turkey, Israel to discuss establishing industrial zone in West Bank
Emine Kart - JERUSALEM
A delegation of Turkish economic officials is set to hold talks this week with their Israeli counterparts to discuss establishing a new industrial zone for Palestinians in the West Bank, in the first visit after the deadly Mavi Marmara incident in 2010 which caused serious tension between Turkey and Israel.
“The main focus is the new industrial zone in collaboration with the U.S., emphasizing the Turks’ obligation to the Palestinian economy. We believe it is one of the keys to strengthening the area and this kind of collaboration,” Israeli diplomatic sources told the Hürriyet Daily News on Aug. 31.
The delegation is certainly an official economic delegation, sources said, adding customs-free export to the U.S. from the industrial zone is planned.
The news was first reported by the Israeli Ma’an News Agency late Aug. 30, citing an Israeli news website, nrg.co.il. According to the reports, the delegation will meet with Deputy Minister of Regional Cooperation Ayoob Kara to discuss establishing a new industrial zone near the al-Jalaboa military checkpoint in the Jenin district of the occupied West Bank.
The development came nearly two months after senior diplomats from the two sides had a secret meeting in Rome to explore ways to normalize strained relations since May 2010. Turkey had issued three conditions to Israel for the normalization of ties but talks over a compensation package were yet to be finalized.
Turkey transferred its organized industrial zone model to Palestine in the 2000s, providing assistance for the establishment of the Erez Industrial Estate in the border area between Gaza and Israel.
The Palestinian Industrial Free Zone (PIFZ), formerly known as the Erez Industrial Estate, was operated by a private Israeli firm, but with the disengagement of Israel from Gaza it was transferred to Palestine and the Palestinian Industrial Estates and Free Zones Authority (PIEFZA). PIEFZA decided to contract the management of the industrial estate to a Turkish operator, founded by TOBB and donor organizations. The executing agency of the project was TEPAV, which aimed to generate jobs for 6,000 Gazan workers by 2010.