Ankara-West Jerusalem exploration plans in the Mediterranean have reportedly been halted over the Gaza conflict
Türkiye has suspended plans to engage in the joint exploration of energy resources with Israel in the Mediterranean, as well as plans to export gas to Europe, Bloomberg reported Wednesday, citing an unnamed official. This comes after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan criticized West Jerusalem over the bombardment of Gaza and canceled his previously-planned visit to the state.
Speaking in parliament earlier on Wednesday, Erdogan said that Hamas was not a terrorist organization, but “a liberation group waging a battle to protect its lands and people,” and condemned Israel’s attacks on Gaza.
“We had a project to go to Israel, but it was canceled. We will not go,” the president said. “I shook the hand of this man named Netanyahu one time in my life,” he added, referring to his meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the sidelines of the 78th session of the UN General Assembly last month.
According to the Turkish newspaper Yeni Şafak, Energy and Natural Resources Minister Alparslan Bayraktar, who was scheduled to visit Israel to discuss natural gas exploration and pipeline work in the Eastern Mediterranean, has also canceled his plans.
Relations between Israel and Türkiye have long been strained by disagreements over policies toward the Palestinians. In 2010, Türkiye froze ties with West Jerusalem after Israeli forces raided a Turkish ship carrying aid supplies to Gaza, killing 10 civilians.
During the meeting at the UN in late September, however, Erdogan and Netanyahu had agreed on reciprocal visits in the near future and to step up energy cooperation. The Turkish leader also shared plans for joint energy drilling with Israel and the beginning of networks for sending energy to Europe through Türkiye.
Soon after, on October 7, the Gaza conflict escalated. The Palestinian militant group Hamas attacked Israel, killing hundreds and taking over 200 hostages. In response, Israel launched massive airstrikes on Gaza and announced a blockade, cutting off electricity, water, fuel and medical supplies. Palestinian officials say more than 6,500 people have been killed. Israel reports 1,405 casualties on its side.
The Turkish president slammed Israel’s retaliatory attacks, arguing that nearly half of those killed in the bombing were children and their mothers. He pointed out that West Jerusalem “commits savagery on a level with crimes against humanity” rather than acting in self-defense as it claims.