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Protests escalate in Turkey over Azerbaijani oil shipments to Israel amid embargo

By Dorian Jones - RFI
Turkey © AFP - MUSTAFA OZER
SAT, 22 JUN 2024 LISTEN
© AFP - MUSTAFA OZER

Protests in Turkey are intensifying over Azerbaijani oil deliveries to Israel. Despite Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan imposing a trade embargo on Israel over its war against Hamas, the trade, which passes through a Turkish port, continues.

Campaigners in Turkey advocating for a boycott of Israeli trade are focusing on Azerbaijan's oil supply to Israel via the Turkish port of Ceyhan.

Oil protests
Demonstrators from the group Thousand Youth for Palestine recently targeted the Istanbul headquarters of SOCAR, Azerbaijan's state energy company, splashing red paint over its walls.

Students at Istanbul's prestigious Galatasaray University  also protested against a speech by a senior SOCAR executive, accusing the company of having blood on its hands.

Experts say Azerbaijan, a close ally of Israel, meets around 40% of Israeli oil needs, a trade that has not been affected by Israel's war on Hamas.

"Until now, Azerbaijan has not stopped its oil exports to Israel. On the contrary, they are going as normal, and this again a manifestation of the reliability of Azerbaijan and that it is a true partner of Israel," explained Gallia Lindenstrauss, an analyst with theInstitute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv.

"I would even say that since Azerbaijan opened an embassy in Israel just a year ago, trade relations have actually expanded," added Lindenstrauss.  

Trade with Israel
Protests against Turkish-Israeli trade have hurt President Recep Tayyip Erdogan politically. Analysts say opposition to Israeli trade, along with an economic crisis, was a factor in March's local elections defeat of Erdogan's AK Party.

"Had there not been the economic crisis, probably they (Turkish voters) wouldn't also be so concerned about the trade with Israel," Sezin Oney, a commentator on Turkey's Politikyol news portal, said.

"But the economic crisis somehow removed the rosy glasses, rose-colored glasses of so many people in Turkey, including the AK party supporters," Oney added. 

"So they started to see things as they are and criticize the government and even Erdogan directly."

Following his local election defeat, Erdogan imposed an Israeli trade embargo,  boasting that Turkey was taking the lead in standing up to Israel.

However, with the Turkish president having close ties with his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev and Azerbaijan's SOCAR energy company, Turkey's biggest international investor, analysts say Baku retains leverage over Ankara.

"Over the past few years, the Azeri-Israeli relationship has been consolidated; it is a bulwark against Iran as well in some regards," Mehmet Ogutcu of the London Energy Club, a grouping of government and energy sector leaders, said.

"Therefore, the Azeris, although I'm sure they are also unhappy with what's happening in Gaza as a result of the Israeli land forces attack, and they would probably impress on Erdogan not to go that far to stop this oil flow," added Ogutcu.

Protests in Turkey against Azerbaijani oil exports to Israel are ongoing, prompting police to arrest organizers and thereby triggering further demonstrations.

A mother of one of the detainees, addressing supporters outside an Istanbul courthouse, demanded to know why her son was detained for defending Palestine. The video of the speech went viral across Turkish social media.

Analysts suggest that such expressions of anger can only serve to further undermine Erdogan's claims of leading international protests against Israeli actions in Gaza.

"The Turkish government said that they stopped trade with Israel, but somehow, it's continuing in other ways,"  Sezin Oney of the Politikyol news portal, said

"So I think the real culprit, more so than Azerbaijan companies or Azerbaijan's Aliyev, or other circles in Azerbaijan itself, [is] the Turkish government, which is going to be held responsible by those protesting and by the conservative base specifically.

With many protesters drawn from Erdogan's traditionally religious conservative base, analysts warn the political cost for the Turkish leader over the ongoing oil trade with Israel is likely to grow.

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Started: 02-07-2024 | Ends: 31-10-2024

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