Report: Hamas Leaders to Meet Turkish PM in Ankara
Senior leaders of the Islamist Hamas terror organization will meet on Tuesday in Ankara with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a diplomatic source told the AFP news agency.
The group's exiled leader Khaled Meshaal, along with Gaza's prime minister Ismail Haniya, will discuss Erdogan's planned visit to the Gaza Strip as well as the situation in Syria, the source said on condition of anonymity.
While in Washington in May, Erdogan said he would press ahead with a planned trip to Gaza, despite opposition from the United States, which along with the European Union and Israel long consider Hamas to be a terror organization.
Washington had urged the Turkish premier to postpone any visit to Gaza, saying it would be a "distraction" from its efforts to revive the moribund Middle East peace process.
While Erdogan claims his visit would be aimed at pushing for an end to Israel's blockade of the terrorist enclave, Washington fears it could damage a reconciliation brokered between Israel and Turkey, Washington's two key regional allies.
The once-close ties between Ankara and the Jewish state had deteriorated over the past several years, namely over the 2010 Mavi Marmara flotilla incident, which resulted in the deaths of nine Turkish anti-Israel activists, who were seeking to infiltrate Israel’s borders and pose a threat to the safety and security of the Jewish state.
Following President Obama’s long anticipated visit to Israel in March, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu apologized for he deaths, in an attempt to mend relations between the two countries.
The meeting with Hamas comes as Erdogan faces the biggest challenge to his rule, as a protest over re-development of a small Istanbul park mushroomed into nationwide protests against what demonstrators say are increasingly authoritarian and conservative policies by his Islamic-rooted government.
Both Erdogan and Hamas oppose Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, a stance that has put Gaza's rulers at odds with long-time allies Iran and Lebanon's Hizbullah, which have backed the regime throughout Syria's more than two-year conflict.