Turkey's Political Relations with the State of Palestine, 25.5.2016
Turkey's Political Relations with the State of Palestine
Turkey shares a centuries long joint history and has close cultural and social bonds with the Palestinian people.
Turkey established official relations with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1975 and was one of the first countries that recognized the Palestinian State established in exile on 15 November 1988.
Moreover, Turkey attached importance to her relationship with the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) which was established in 1996 within the framework of the Oslo-I (1993) and Oslo-II Agreements (1995), as well as the cooperation that was focused on improving the living conditions of the Palestinian people. Turkey supports the efforts of the State of Palestine to be recognized as a state in all international fora. In this context, Turkey actively backed the State of Palestine in its bid for membership to UNESCO in 2011. Moreover, Palestine’s upgrade of status to a “non-member observer state” at the UN on 29 November 2012 by the overwhelming support of the members of the UN, including Turkey, constituted a landmark in the recognition of Palestine as a state.
The total amount of assistance provided to Palestine directly from government to government or indirectly through international organizations like the UNRWA and the WFP since 2004 is well over US$ 370 million. This figure includes Turkey’s assistance in goods or in cash to Palestine in a wide spectrum of fields including, but not limited to development, health, education, public finance, institution building, security, tourism as well as agriculture.
In line with the growing role of Turkey in this field, Turkish International Cooperation and Development Agency (TIKA) has opened a branch in Ramallah in May 2005, with a view to ensuring more effective and on site coordination of Turkey’s development assistance. Turkey provides assistance to the Palestinian refugees through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and participates in the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH).
Turkey supports a negotiated settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the basis of the UN Security Council Resolutions 242, 338, 1397 and 1515, the principle of land for peace, the Arab Peace Initiative and the Road Map that would ensure two states living side by side within secure and recognized borders.
Turkey believes that the peace process can be successful only if it is complemented with an economic dimension. In this regard, the daily lives of the Palestinians have to be improved and a viable and sustainable socio-economic infrastructure of a future Palestinian state should be established. This is an ethical and humanitarian mission for the whole international community. Within this framework, Turkey announced a comprehensive economic and social action plan for Palestine in December 2003. This plan is coordinated by the Coordinator for Economic and Social Cooperation with Palestine.
Yet another initiative of Turkey is the Ankara Forum (Ankara Forum for Economic Cooperation Between Palestine, Israel and Turkey). This Forum was inaugurated by the presidents of the Trade Chambers of Turkey, Israel and Palestine. The first ever meeting of the Ankara Forum was hosted by the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey (TOBB) on 27 April 2005. As the Forum reinforced mutual trust among the parties, it embarked upon projects aimed at the rehabilitation/establishment of industrial zones in Palestine.
The Forum’s first such project was the rehabilitation of the industrial zone in Erez in the Gaza Strip. However, due to the developments on the ground, it was decided to build an Industrial Zone in Jenin on 920 acres of land. To this end, a memorandum of understanding was signed between TOBB-BIS A.Ş. and the State of Palestine on 19 November 2013 and Turkey transferred approximately US$ 10 million to the State of Palestine for the expropriation payments of the land. The master plan of the industrial zone project was submitted to the relevant Palestinian institutions.
Turkey supports actively the efforts of the State of Palestine for reform. In this context, Turkish experts participated in the constitutional and administrative reform process. In addition to this, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkey has been offering a special education programme since 2004, in the framework of which a number of young Palestinian diplomats find the opportunity for professional training. The last round of such training program was held in 2014 and Turkey will host another 10 Palestinian diplomats in Turkey within 2016.
Commercial and economic relations between Turkey and the State of Palestine have steadily gained ground since the Free Trade Agreement signed in 2004.
Turkey is concerned with the ongoing division in Palestine since June 2007. Turkey encourages all the sides for a functioning national reconciliation and also calls on the international community for taking a constructive attitude that would focus on a national agreement rather than separation and isolation.