Turkish goods shipped to Israel via Greece despite official ban

Statistics indicate Turkish companies use Greek ports to re-export goods to Israel following Ankara’s decision to halt trade

Trade between Turkey and Israel continues through third countries like Greece, despite Ankara’s decision to halt direct trade with Tel Aviv over the Rafah invasion in May, according to data released on Thursday.

Figures from Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) reveal that Israel imported $116m worth of goods from Turkey in May, marking a 69 percent decline from the $377m in the same month last year.

In contrast, the Turkish Exporters’ Assembly (TIM) recorded only $4m worth of goods exported to Israel in May, a drop of over 99 percent compared to the previous year.

However, two Turkish businesspeople facilitating trade between Turkey and Israel informed Middle East Eye that since early May, Turkish goods have been re-routed through Greece and other nearby countries to reach Israel.

This shift follows Ankara’s proclaimed imposition of a total trade ban on Israel until a permanent ceasefire in Gaza is established.

“The Israeli authorities don’t even ask Turkish companies to amend their certificate of origin to re-export the goods through Greece because it would increase the costs further, so they are Turkish products,” one Turkish businessman told MEE.

“White label products with Hebrew tags were prioritised, but every sort of good is getting shipped to Israel, especially those ordered before the trade embargo.”

Surge in exports to Greece

Businesses favour Greece due to its proximity to Turkey’s industrial base and its comparatively cheaper shipping options to Israel.

TIM data indicate that Turkey’s exports to Greece surged to $375m in May, up 71 percent from $219m in the same month last year.

Israeli data from May doesn’t show an increase in the quantity of imports from Greece, despite the Turkish re-exports.

A second Turkish businessman explained that Turkish exports, although passing through Greece, are still recorded as imports from Turkey in Israeli statistics because they remain Turkish products.

Murat Yapici, the general manager of My Advisor consultancy, told MEE that Israeli records more accurately reflect the bilateral trade since they are based on the origin of the goods, even if they come through third countries like Greece.

“This parallel trade might continue for a few more months, but Israeli companies are quickly aligning themselves with alternative suppliers in other countries like Egypt, Spain, and Italy,” the second businessman said. “Turkey was the net exporter to Israel, and we are now facing the loss of that market.”

The trade volume between the two countries was $6.3bn in 2023, with 76 percent being Turkish exports, according to the Turkish Statistical Institute. Turkey had been a key supplier of affordable products to Israel.

Impact on Turkish businesses

Following significant losses in Turkey’s local elections in March, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Turkish government has intensified its criticism of Israel and taken a series of measures against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s administration.

The government has assessed that its previously balanced policy regarding Palestine and Gaza had negatively affected its core voters, who are devout Muslims concerned about the ongoing Israeli invasion in Gaza.

The conflict in Gaza broke out on 7 October, when Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups launched a surprise attack on southern Israel, killing around 1,200 people and taking 240 captive.

Israel responded by declaring war, imposing a siege on Gaza, and launching a devastating aerial bombing campaign followed by a ground invasion, which has killed over 37,300 people.

The Turkish business community empathises with the Palestinian plight, with some describing the Israeli actions in Gaza as genocide. However, they find the complete cessation of trade unreasonable.

“We sympathise with the government’s decision, but this is a political choice. Another government would have only restricted the trade that could have dual-use in war,” the first businessman said.

“Instead, we punished all the businesses trading with Israel without even a grace period. Some goods are stuck at customs, resulting in hundreds of thousands in losses for the companies.”

About The Author