erdogan and Katsav 298.
(photo credit: AP [file])
Israel, Turkey and the Palestinian Authority are in advanced stages of talks over substantial Turkish involvement in the Erez industrial zone on the Israel-Gaza border.
According to diplomatic officials, Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul originally was planning to attend the Prime Minister's Export and International Cooperation Conference two weeks ago to sign a memorandum of understanding about the issue. That visit, however, was postponed when the negotiations were not concluded.
According to officials aware of the negotiations, the idea is for a major Turkish investment in plants in Erez that would manufacture goods that then would be able to enter the EU, US and even Persian Gulf countries duty free.
Reports appeared in the Turkish media earlier this year talking of plants employing some 6,000 Palestinians.
The discussions with Israel are now believed to be centering on how to ensure quick, reliable transfer of the merchandise out of Gaza.
Quartet envoy James Wolfensohn is reportedly involved in the negotiations. Wolfensohn is pushing hard for a restructuring of the Erez, Karni and Sufa terminals from Gaza into Israel, using state of the art technology, so that goods and merchandise could be shipped out much more quickly. Wolfensohn's overriding assumption is that investors need to have assurances that merchandise would be reliably and quickly transferred out of Gaza before being willing to invest in companies there.
According to one Israeli official, Turkey has asked for assurances from Israel that it would continue to provide electricity and water to the area.
There also have been Turkish press reports of negotiations over whether Turkish security companies would be allowed to operate in the area.
One Israeli official said that, in general, Jerusalem views the plan favorably, because it would provide "soft security" for the area since the PA would have a great deal of incentive in ensuring that terror attacks don't take place there.
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