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Azerbaijan’s oil sales to Israel squeeze Turkey’s Erdogan amid Gaza conflict

Many Turks are demanding their government do more about Israel's ongoing bombardment of the Gaza Strip, including halting exports of Azerbaijani oil to Israel.

Calls for Turkey’s Islamist government to take further measures against Israel amid the carnage unfolding daily in the Gaza Strip are growing louder, and one demand in particular stands out: to halt the exports of Azerbaijani oil to Israel via a pipeline that runs from Baku via Georgia to loading terminals in Ceyhan on the Turkish coast.

For the past several months, anti-Israel protesters organized under the name of “The Resistance Tent” and “A Thousand Youths for Palestine” have aired their wrath at Azerbaijan for “fueling” Israel’s war machine, most recently spraying red paint over the windows and breaking the door of the Istanbul headquarters of Azerbaijan’s state-run oil company, SOCAR.

Their actions pose a burgeoning dilemma for the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as it weighs strategic ties with a key Turkic ally against the domestic fallout stemming from energy exports to Israel. Ankara’s position so far has been to stuff its ears and clamp down. Some 13 protesters were arrested on May 31 in a replay of similar detentions over Gaza, sparking even more anger at Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

The AKP was overtaken for the first time since coming to power in 2002 by the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) in nationwide local polls held on March 31. One of the reasons cited for the AKP’s poor showing was disaffection among its base over the government’s failure to react firmly to Israel’s assault in the early days of the Gaza conflict, a sentiment that is widely shared by Palestinians as well.

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