Abbas to Visit Turkey This Weekend

Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmud Abbas is scheduled to visit Turkey this weekend for talks with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

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PA Chairman Abbas
PA Chairman Abbas
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Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmud Abbas is scheduled to visit Turkey this weekend for talks with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Abbas will also meet President Abdullah Gul and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu during his trip on Saturday and Sunday, a Palestinian Authority official told the AFP news agency.

Erdogan recently announced his intention to visit Gaza next month, following a trip to the United States.

Abbas's Fatah movement, a long-time rival to the Islamist Hamas, has criticized Erdogan's Gaza trip as fostering intra-Palestinian divisions.

"Any official, Arab, Muslim or foreign, who visits Gaza without reference to the legitimate Palestinian leadership is blessing and consolidating the division between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip," Fatah official Azzam al-Ahmed told the official Voice of Palestine radio on Monday.

Erdogan, a staunch advocate of the “Palestinian” cause, had previously said he would visit Gaza in April "to help the process" of lifting the alleged Israeli blockade.

That announcement came a day after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu apologized for the deaths of nine Turks during a 2010 raid on the Mavi Marmara flotilla, which was filled with anti-Israel activists seeking to breach the borders of the Jewish state.

While officials have said that the April visit was cancelled due to scheduling conflicts, Israeli and Turkish media speculated that US Secretary of State John Kerry had warned Ankara over the trip's "potentially adverse effects" on the recent progression in bilateral ties.

Erdogan is planning to visit Washington on May 16, according to reports.

Turkey is insisting that Israel pay compensation to the raid victims and lift its restrictions on Gaza for full restoration of ties and re-appointment of its ambassador in Israel.

Officials from both sides are set to meet in Turkey on April 22 to discuss the terms of such compensation. Turkish officials had also postponed that meeting, originally planned for April 11, citing scheduling conflicts.

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said in an interview published on Wednesday in Israeli daily Maariv that he would head the delegation to the compensation meeting.

"I expect the talks to succeed," he told the paper. "Turkey is talking about full normalization and restoring relations between the two countries to their former state."

"Normalization of relations between Turkey and Israel will improve the chances of reaching peace in the region," he added.

Meanwhile, Turkey recently declined to agree to a meeting of NATO's Mediterranean Dialogue group, which includes Israel and six Arab countries, as it has done numerous times in the past.

Anti-Israel activists aboard the flotilla also announced recently that despite the apology they would not withdraw their lawsuit against the Israeli commanders, who were protecting Israel’s borders and national security from the Gaza-bound flotilla.