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Türkiye, Egypt join forces to help Gaza against Israel’s siege

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Türkiye and Egypt strive to keep Gaza open for humanitarian aid delivery, the foreign ministers of both countries reassured over the weekend as Türkiye is the first to deliver aid to the besieged Palestinian territory amid Israeli aggression

Hakan Fidan’s first visit to Egypt as a Turkish foreign minister came at a critical time for both countries. Fidan met his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry in Cairo on Saturday and the two top diplomats called on Israel to ensure access to the Gaza Strip for humanitarian aid delivery.

Gaza was left without electricity, food and water amid an Israeli blockade that followed days of bombardment after a Hamas offensive toward Israel. Over 2 million people are trapped in the city, which was already suffering under a similar yearslong blockade.

Ankara “invites Israel to adhere to international law,” Fidan told a joint news conference with Shoukry. For his part, Shoukry stressed the urgent need to provide protection for Palestinian civilians and ensure the entry of aid into Gaza, denouncing Israel’s actions, including a military campaign on the populous coastal enclave, as “grave violations of international humanitarian law.”

Türkiye “rejects and condemns” attacks targeting “innocent civilians” and causing their death in Palestine, Fidan said. Israel, he said, “should have peace not only with Arab countries but mainly with Palestinians,” referring to the normalization drive between Israel and several Arab countries that began before the current conflict.

He reiterated Türkiye’s two-state solution for the conflict, saying that the Palestinian issue could be resolved with the establishment of a Palestinian state. “We do not approve of the policy of displacing Palestinians in Gaza and deporting them to Egypt. We oppose this. And we stand with Egypt on this issue,” Fidan said.

Fidan, who earlier on Saturday met his German counterpart Annalena Baerbock in Cairo to discuss joint efforts to facilitate the release of German hostages held by Hamas in Gaza, said Türkiye has so far evacuated 30 out of nearly 300 Turkish dual citizens from Gaza.

Türkiye will send more humanitarian aid via air to Egypt’s El Arish airport and hopes to deliver it to Gaza via the Rafah crossing, Fidan said, citing ongoing negotiations between Egypt and Israel on the issue. Fidan said that they discussed the aid issue with other countries too.

“We were in search of how countries can address this issue in a more systematic way, in coordination, instead of providing aid separately. Of course, the U.N. is also in the field.”

Shipments of aid from Jordan, Türkiye and the United Arab Emirates had arrived at El Arish airport, 50 kilometers (31 miles) west of Rafah, alongside enough medical supplies supplied by the World Health Organization (WHO) to meet the needs of 300,000 people. Egypt itself has sent a convoy of 100 transport trucks carrying 1,000 tonnes of aid.

Israel, which controls the other two crossing points into Gaza, has declared a “complete siege” of the Palestinian coastal enclave, cutting off food, water, fuel and electricity supplies to the territory’s 2.4 million people. Israeli Energy Minister Israel Katz said on Friday: “Humanitarian aid to Gaza? No electric switch will be turned on, no water tap will be opened and no fuel truck will enter until the Israeli abductees are returned home.”

On Friday, Israel ordered civilian residents of the northern Gaza Strip, numbering around 1.1 million, to move southward to clear the way for an expected ground invasion.

Fidan also said that Türkiye is in close consultation with countries with which it has a similar stance on the Palestinian issue to prevent the conflict from spreading. He called for the resumption of the peace process on the basis of a two-state solution.

He stressed that as Muslim countries in the region, it is necessary to establish a mechanism that will protect the survival of the Palestinians and be the guarantor of a just and lasting peace.

For his part, Shoukry said that Egypt and Türkiye share a common vision of the importance of efforts to overcome the serious humanitarian impacts of the conflict on Palestinians. “The shift of the conflict between Palestine and Israel toward military operations arose due to failure to achieve legitimate rights of Palestinians,” he said.

Since the conflict broke out, Ankara has launched diplomacy seeking to mediate the conflict, sent aid for Palestinians and slammed Israel’s call for Gazans to move south as inhumane and a violation of international law.

Türkiye-Egypt relations

Fidan’s visit also marks another step for fully normalizing ties between Cairo and Ankara. His predecessor Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has made a rare visit to Egypt recently, in response to Shoukry’s visit to Türkiye to show solidarity after the Feb. 6 earthquakes in Türkiye’s south.

Fidan said that the relations between Türkiye and Egypt “have entered a brand new era in which we turn our horizons to the future and focus on cooperation.” “Reviving the High-Level Strategic Cooperation Council is on our agenda. We will continue to strengthen our cooperation in areas such as trade, economy, energy, aviation, tourism, culture, education, communication, and defense industry,” he said.

Fidan said that the bilateral trade volume between Türkiye and Egypt reached almost $10 billion last year, adding the new target for the next five years is $15 billion. Fidan was on a two-day official visit to Egypt at the invitation of Shoukry. During his visit, Fidan also met with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.

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