Turkey Increases Ties with Hamas

Published: July 20th 2010
in News » World

Hamas leader Khaled Meshal

It appears that Turkey, once a strong ally of Israel, is increasing ties with Hamas. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu met with Hamas leader Khaled Meshal in Damascus on Monday, signaling a new chapter in the relationship between Turkey and the Islamist group, Israel’s sworn enemy.


According to Turkish news agency, Anatolia, the men spoke about ways to crack Israel’s Gaza Strip blockade, with Davutoglu assuring Meshal that Turkey will continue to use utmost effort to break the siege.


They also discussed the peace process and failed attempts by Hamas and rival Fatah, led by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, to reconcile. The two groups have been at odds since Hamas’s 2007 bloody takeover of Gaza, where it remains in control.


Since Israel’s March 31 commando raid on the Turkish flotilla ship, Mavi Marmara, relations between Israel and Turkey – once Israel's only Muslim ally in the Middle East – have been extremely strained. Turkey has insisted that Israel apologize for the deaths of nine Turkish activists on board the ship, as well as compensate their families. So far, Israel has refused to do so.


In 2006, after Hamas won parliamentary elections in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, Israel heavily criticized Turkey for welcoming Meshal on an official visit. Davutoglu, at that point a foreign policy advisor to Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, reportedly brokered the meeting.


Haaretz reported that Meshal praised Turkey during the meeting for “standing up to Israeli aggression.” He also hailed its insistence that Israel pay compensation.


BBC News highlighted a post on Hamas’s  website in which Davutoglue is quoted pledging that Turkey will “pursue its efforts to lift” the Gaza blockade.


In the past, Turkey had always insisted that while a final peace deal had to include Hamas, the group needed to renounce violence and disarm.


The Turkish Foreign Minister also met with Syrian President Bashar Assad during his 24-hour trip to Syria. The men released a joint statement asking for additional measures to end Israel’s Gaza blockade.


According to a Syrian news agency, Davutoglue and Assad spoke about "additional accelerated efforts" to open an international, independently run investigation into Israel’s culpability during the flotilla raid.


After the meeting, the two men along with Lebanese Prime Minister Sa’ad Hariri issues a joint statement centering on the importance of a reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah.


Several days earlier, Assad had stated that Turkish-brokered talks with Israel would be Syria’s “greatest hope” of making peace with Israel. Turkey has already led four sets of indirect peace talks between Israel and Syria. However, due to deteriorating ties, the country is no longer seen as an honest broker by Israel.


Assad stated that Turkey is the only country that can act as mediator between Israel and Syria as it is the most qualified to be in that position.


He told Turkish media in Damascus that “the position of mediator in the indirect talks belongs to Turkey. We are completely confident in Ankara’s ability to successfully carry out this duty.”


While agreeing that relations between Israel and Turkey have as of late become tense, he nonetheless said that this was the best option for future talks, urging Turkey’s government to resume its mediator role.

Related articles: (turkey, hamas, flotilla, gaza, meshal)

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