Has Iran just issued a “Give us action, not words” rebuke to Turkey over its reaction to Israel’s onslaught on Gaza? Observers were left bewildered on November 28 when Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi was a no-show for a visit to Ankara that was personally announced earlier this month by his counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
As bne IntelliNews reported on November 2, Turkey failed to respond to a call from Tehran’s top diplomat for a ban on shipping oil to Israel. Despite the angry rhetoric and invective Erdogan hurls at the Israelis on a near daily basis, Israel continues to obtain almost 40% of its crude in the form of Azerbaijani oil shipped to the country from Turkey’s Ceyhan port. The argument that when it comes to the suffering of the Palestinians in Gaza, Erdogan appears to be rather big on words, but short on action, was further fuelled this week when the Turkey branch of the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement pointed out that power plants of Turkish conglomerate Zorlu Holding meet at least 7% of Israel’s annual electricity needs.
The confusion around Raisi's visit underscores the tensions that linger between regional powers and neighbours Iran and Turkey despite their shared views on the Israel-Hamas war, AFP reported, noting that when Raisi did not show up for the billed meeting the Turkish presidency did not explain whether the visit had been cancelled or postponed.
Iran's semi-official Tasnim news agency, meanwhile, reported that Raisi's visit to Turkey had "been postponed", but provided no reason or other details.
"Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi is coming to us on the 28th of the month," Erdogan told reporters on November 11.
Turkey's state media also announced the visit and it was discussed extensively on Turkish television as late as November 27. But at the same time, it was never officially confirmed by Raisi's office.
The two presidents and the countries' top diplomats had phone conversations over the weekend focused on the Gaza war.
Erdogan has branded Israel a "terrorist state". He has also riled Israel and Western allies by calling Hamas "a liberation group" despite the brutal massacre it committed inside Israel on October 7. Some analysts, however, think Iran is sending the message that it wants Turkey to move beyond the rhetoric by cutting lucrative trade and energy ties with Israel.
"Iran expects Turkey to end its direct and indirect trade with Israel," Istanbul's Centre for Iranian Studies director Hakki Uygur told AFP.
"Turkey, on the other hand, has taken an attitude that cares about separating political and commercial issues."