Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan plans to visit Gaza in mid-May, he announced Sunday.
Erdogan originally planned to visit the Hamas terrorist-ruled region soon after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu formally apologized to him for IDF operational errors that led to deaths of nine aboard a Turkish vessel attempting in 2010 to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza.
The Turkish leader had previously said he would probably visit the enclave after his trip to Washington D.C. where he will meet at the White House on May 16 with U.S. President Barack Obama.
According to a report published Sunday in the Turkish Hurriyet daily newspaper, Turkish officials discussed the visit on April 7 with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. The paper quoted American sources who said the “timing” of Erdogan’s visit was important so it would be “helpful and constructive in facilitating the peace process.”
PA representative to Turkey Nabil Maarouf welcomed the news of Erdogan’s impending visit to Gaza.
However, in an exclusive interview with the Today’s Zayman newspaper, Maarouf recommended Erdogan visit after reconciliation is achieved between rival factions Fatah and Hamas.
Fatah, headed by PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, leads the ruling government in the PA capital city of Ramallah, located in Samaria (Shomron).
“It is the decision of the Turkish government when to make the visit,” said Maarouf, but added that a trip prior to reconciliation might deepen the division between the two factions.
The PA government is, however, currently in some disarray: two weeks ago the finance minister handed in his resignation, and PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad did the same this weekend.
“When reconciliation has been achieved, Abbas will welcome Erdogan in Gaza and then the two leaders together will go on to Ramallah,” Maarouf suggested. “Erdogan is considered a hero in Palestine, and every Palestinian city will be honored to receive him.”
He added that the visit should be coordinated with countries such as the U.S. , Israel and Egypt.