Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben- Eliezer on Tuesday urged local businesses and supermarket chains not to boycott Turkish products.

“Trade needs to be completely separated from diplomatic issues,” he said. “We cannot accept the usage of boycotts as a means of political pressure. We are against global boycotts in general and against Turkey in particular.

“We disapprove of any calls or announcements heard in recent days to boycott Turkish products in Israel. Such announcements will only make the situation with Turkey worse and hurt many Israeli companies that are still doing business with Turkey despite the diplomatic crisis.”

Ben-Eliezer said the strengthening of business and trade relations with Turkey, which have grown in recent years, would help bring relations back to normal.

Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry director-general Sharon Kedmi on Tuesday asked large supermarket chains to act responsibly to prevent the situation from deteriorating.

“There is no doubt that recent events have led to strong feelings among citizens,” he said. “But we should anticipate the repercussions of such acts, which could translate into severe damage to the economy and Israeli citizens.”

Some local supermarket chains this week announced they would boycott products manufactured in Turkey and stop working with Turkish suppliers. One of the firms is Blue Square, which operates the Mega, Mega in the City and Mega Bul supermarket stores and imports flour and pasta from Turkey for its private label. Blue Square’s relationship with Turkish companies began to be problematic about a month ago and recently was broken off, the company said.

Supermarket chain Rami Levy also broke off ties with Turkish suppliers for reasons of ideology and conscience. Rami Levy imports pasta, paper plates and ketchup from Turkey for its private label.

Last week, Israeli unions called for a boycott of all Turkish goods, in response to Turkey’s involvement in the Gaza-bound flotilla that was stopped by Israeli commandos. Union leaders announced they would not buy Turkish-made goods as gifts for workers – expenditures that totaled NIS 2 billion last year.

Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce president Uriel Lynn warned Monday that it would be a serious mistake to boycott products from Turkey. He urged the business sector to act responsibly and not let political tensions damage economic relations.

“There are many Israeli businesses that have strong trade and business ties with Turkey and are interested in the maintenance of intact relations,” Lynn said. “The basis of good relations between countries and people are trade and business. Until now, this basis between Israel and Turkey has proven itself, and it would be a mistake to shake it up.”

In the first four months of the year, trade volume between Israel and Turkey rose 27 percent to $1b., compared with $793 million during the same period in 2009, the FICC said. During the same period, exports to Turkey rose 16% to $410m., from $353m., while imports from Turkey increased 36% to $600m., from $440m.

In 2009, trade volume between Israel and Turkey declined 28% to $2.5b., from $3.4b. in 2008.

Exports to Turkey fell 33% to $1.1b., from $1.6b. in 2008. The FICC blamed the global financial crisis for the decline in trade between the two countries rather than diplomatic or political tensions.

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