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Company owned by Erdoğan-led Turkish wealth fund sells precious minerals to Israel

A company owned by the Turkey Wealth Fund (TWF) run by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan recently shipped 21 tons of boron, a valuable mineral, from Turkey to Israel, an investigative journalist reported, citing data from open sources.

This comes despite Erdoğan’s harsh criticism of Israel’s military operations in Gaza.

Israel began pounding Gaza in the aftermath of an unprecedented attack by Hamas militants on October 7, which killed around 1,200 people in Israel. The death toll in Gaza stands at over 32,600, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.

According to a bill shared by investigative journalist Metin Cihan on X, Eti Maden, a company wholly owned by the TVF, sold boron in the form of boric acid to Fertilizers & Chemicals Ltd, a large Israeli chemical company known for supplying the Israeli military.

This transaction stands in stark contrast to the Turkish government’s verbal condemnations of Israeli military actions in Gaza and its stated support for the Palestinian cause.

According to Cihan, the shipping data show that the boric acid was loaded at the Turkish port of Gemlik on March 23, 2024 and delivered to the Israeli port of Ashdod on March 29. The last delivery took place on April 1, 2024 at the port of Haifa.

This revelation comes at a time when Turkey’s stance towards Israel is under scrutiny due to a perceived contradiction between genocide allegations and the government and private companies doing business with the country as usual.

Supporters of Erdoğan and members of the government defend Turkey’s ongoing trade with Israel on the grounds that it is conducted by private companies and that government intervention would upset the markets, hurting Turkey more than Israel.

However, Cihan’s revelations now show that the trade is not only conducted by private companies, but also by a company directly controlled by Erdoğan through the TWF.

The trade between Turkey and Israel, which is partly run by individuals close to Erdoğan despite his anti-Israel rhetoric, was first uncovered by investigative journalist Cihan at the end of November. Since then, Cihan has been reporting on trade between the two countries based on publicly available sources.

The ongoing conflict and Erdoğan’s condemnation notwithstanding, Israel remains an important trading partner for Turkey, ranking 13th on Turkey’s export list in 2023. Trade between the two countries amounted to $5.42 billion last year and accounted for 2.1 percent of Turkey’s total exports, a decrease from $7 billion in 2022.

Data from the Turkish Ministry of Transportation shows that between October 7 and December 31, 2023, an average of eight ships per day made a total of 701 trips from Turkish ports to Israel. Of these, 480 sailed directly, while 221 used Turkey as a transit country. Notably, Turkish exports to Israel rose to $430.6 million in December, an increase of 34.8 percent compared to November, suggesting that economic ties are continuing and even growing despite the political rhetoric.

Observers say Cihan’s revelations about the Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) hypocrisy over Gaza, which were used as a weapon by the opposition party in the run-up to Sunday’s local elections, are one of the reasons for the rise of the Islamist New Welfare Party, which won nearly 6 percent of the vote and 60 municipalities, becoming the third strongest political party by vote share.

Erdoğan’s AKP was relegated to second place behind the largest opposition party, the Republican People’s Party, in a historic first on Sunday, coming as a shock to the 70-year-old ruler.

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