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 has traditionally 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. In this context, various bilateral visits at all levels have been realized between Turkey and the PNA ever since its founding.
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 1995 is well over US$ 30 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 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. This project, however, was put on hold due to the developments on the ground. The decision to launch a similar “Industry for Peace” Project in Tarqumia/West Bank in addition to the Erez/Gaza project, was taken on 13 November 2007 in the 7th meeting of the Ankara Forum which was co-chaired by President Abdullah Gül of Turkey, President Shimon Peres of the State of Israel and President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian National Authority.
The President of the PNA Mahmoud Abbas and the President of Israel Shimon Peres addressed the Turkish Grand National Assembly (TGNA) on 13 November 2007 during their concurrent visits to Turkey.
Turkey supports actively the efforts of the Palestinian National Authority for reform. In this context, Turkish experts participated in the constitutional and administrative reform process of the Palestinian National Authority. A board of 17 with the status of international observers monitored the Palestine Legislative Council elections on 25 January 2006 for Turkey. The observers group was composed of authorities from the members of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, academics from universities, as well as a member of the TGNA and a member of the Council of Europe Congress of Local and Regional Authorities. 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.
Commercial and economical relations between Turkey and the PNA have steadily gained ground since the Free Trade Agreement signed in 2004.
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 was deeply concerned by the armed clashes that erupted between Fatah and Hamas in Gaza in June 2007 and the events that culminated in loss of Palestinian lives. It is Turkey’s conviction that the longer the current problems remain unresolved, the more probable that the institutions and the foundations of the future Palestinian State will be further undermined. Turkey has urged both parties to come together immediately and solve their problems through dialogue and refrain from actions that would risk the future of Palestine. Turkey has also called on the international community for taking a constructive attitude that would focus on a national agreement rather than separation and isolation.
Turkey believes in the vital importance of the continuation of the constitutional process without interruption, for ending the intra-Palestinian conflict. In this context, the endeavors of President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Selam Fayyad for the normalization of the situation in Palestine and the establishment of national compromise should be supported. In addition, Turkey is providing humanitarian aid to the Palestinians both in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip to alleviate their suffering.