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Turkey to join South Africa's genocide case against Israel before ICJ

Move comes following growing domestic pressure and a meeting between Erdogan and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh
A Palestinian delegation listens at the start of a hearing at the ICJ in the Hague on 19 April (AFP/Robin van Lonkhuijsen/ANP)
A Palestinian delegation listens at the start of a hearing at the ICJ in the Hague on 19 April (AFP/Robin van Lonkhuijsen/ANP)
By Ragip Soylu in Ankara

Turkey will join South Africa in its genocide case against Israel at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan announced on Wednesday.  

Fidan said that Turkey has been deliberating how to respond to Israel's actions during the war on Gaza for a while and has already taken steps against Israel, such as restricted some exports.

“Our legal experts have been studying how to participate in the legal case against Israel at the ICJ,” Fidan during televised remarks.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan approved the officials’ plan, Fidan added, so Turkey “will legally support South Africa’s case against Israel at the ICJ, and file our application to the court soon”.

Turkey aims to strengthen South Africa’s case with this step. Nicaragua and Colombia have previously tried to intervene in the same case with separate applications but the court is yet to make a judgment on their request.  

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It remains unclear what type of application for intervention Turkey, a party to the Genocide Convention, is seeking.

Nicaragua's application was under Article 62 of the ICJ Statute, requesting intervention in South Africa's case against Israel. Columbia, while expressing its support for South Africa's case, has requested a different type of intervention under Article 63 of the Statute to assist the Court in construing the provisions of the Convention in question in this case. 

Fidan said Turkey discussed the issue with some members of the Organisation of Islamic Countries, who said they are likely to also join the case.

Last month, Erdogan received a senior delegation from Hamas, including the group’s political leader Ismail Haniyeh.

The meeting was the first public encounter between Erdogan and Hamas’ leadership since the 7 October attack on southern Israel.

The meeting also came less than two weeks after Israel killed three of Haniyeh’s sons and four of his grandchildren in an air strike, triggering condemnation by the Turkish president and other senior ruling party officials.  

Since the start of the war, Turkey has attempted to support key Arab states, like Qatar and Egypt, in brokering a ceasefire.

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But in recent months, political pressure and losses in local elections have forced Erdogan to take a harder line on Israel as the death toll spirals in Gaza. More than 34,500 Palestinians have been killed by Israel in almost seven months. 

The Turkish public dealt Erdogan and his party their biggest electoral blow three weeks ago, when the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) lost the popular vote in regions previously considered its stronghold. 

Analysts said that economic strains, including nearly 70 percent inflation and a slowdown in growth brought on by an aggressive monetary-tightening regime, persuaded voters to punish the party.

Another, less mentioned, factor that led to the AKP’s losses was the government’s policy regarding Gaza.

Erdogan’s embrace of an increasingly nationalistic outlook and shift away from reformist Islamist ideas appears to have provided an opening for the New Welfare Party (YRP), a relatively new conservative Muslim party.

The YRP successfully campaigned against Erdogan by highlighting the continuing commercial ties between Turkey and Israel despite the allegations of genocide in Gaza. 

Turkey officially backed South Africa’s case against Israel at the ICJ, has repeatedly condemned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli officials for the Gaza onslaught, and become a top donor of humanitarian aid in the coastal enclave. 

But for many Turkish voters, and countless others in the region, the optics of trading with Israel in the middle of a devastating humanitarian crisis showed Ankara wasn’t doing enough.

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