A spokesman for Turkey's Foreign Ministry confirmed on Tuesday that Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu met with main Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal during a visit to Syria.
During the meeting, Davutoglu reiterated Turkey’s support for the Palestinians and said it will continue to devote efforts to breaking the siege on Gaza. He also said that Turkey insists on an Israeli apology over the lethal raid on the Gaza flotilla, as well as compensation for families of the casualties, and an independent international probe of the raid.
Mashaal presented to Davutoglu what he described as Israeli moves aimed at boosting West Bank settlements and east Jerusalem. He accused Israel of attempting to “Judaize” east Jerusalem and expel its Arab owners. Mashaal lauded Turkey's support for the Palestinians and said that Ankara's demands following the raid on the flotilla are justified.
The meeting between Davutoglu and Mashaal comes at a time when relations between Israel and Turkey are already strained, following Turkey's sponsorship of the Gaza aid flotilla in May. Israeli soldiers who boarded one of the boats in a peaceful attempt to prevent its entrance into Israel's territorial waters killed nine Turkish citizens when attacked by passengers wielding knives and blunt weapons. The ship was found not to be carrying any aid. Following the incident anti-Israeli protests were held across Turkey. Israel has refused Turkey’s demands for an independent national probe on the raid, saying it is not necessary since it is conducting its own investigation.
Israel Foreign Ministry Spokesman Yigal Palmor told CNN following the meeting: “One wonders what is the point of talking to an organization that refuses and rejects the idea of solving problems through dialog.” After the flotilla incident, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan said defended Hamas as "resistance fighters who are struggling to defend their land."
The meeting between Mashaal and Davutoglu took place as part of a one-day trip to Damascus by Davutoglu. The Turkish Foreign Minister also met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al Hariri during his visit, according to Foreign Ministry Spokesman Selim Yenel. Turkish media added that Davutoglu also held talks with former Iraqi prime minister Ayad Allawi and radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.