Turkish government spokesman and Deputy Prime Minister Bülent arınç told a news conference on Monday following a Cabinet meeting that Mashaal's office being moved to Turkey is out of question. He added that news reports claiming the Turkish government would give the Palestinian group millions of dollars in aid are also not true.
In a response to a question about Hamas moving to Turkey after leaving Damascus, Arınç said Hamas is an organization that has been recognized by Turkey and has formed a government in the Palestinian territories following democratic elections in 2006. “Khaled Mashaal's stay in Turkey is out of question,” Arınç told reporters.
Mashaal recently visited Turkey which, unlike its fellow NATO members, recognizes Hamas as a legal political party.
Some diplomatic sources had stated that Turkey promised to provide Gazan Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh's administration with $300 million to support its annual budget. The Turkish Foreign Ministry had earlier dismissed such reports.
Mashaal, 55, has been based in Damascus since 2001, fearing for his safety and restriction of movement in Gaza. He has been the Iranian-back chief of Hamas since 1996, responsible for setting policy and planning attacks against Israel.
Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip from forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah movement, which holds sway in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, in a brief civil war in 2007. Hamas and Fatah agreed to bury the hatchet and end their hostility with a reconciliation deal last year, but their agreement has yet to be implemented in deed or in spirit.
Israel, the United States and the European Union consider Hamas a terrorist group opposed to peace and committed to violence in order to destroy what it calls the “Zionist entity.” Israel has said a Palestinian unity government that includes Hamas will end hopes of peace.
Diplomatic and intelligence sources say Mashaal no longer spends much time in Syria, where over 5,000 people have been killed in 10 months of conflict. However, Hamas said in a statement in recent days that Mashaal's absence from Damascus was due only to security concerns in that country at the moment and denied that it had moved its leadership or headquarters out of Syria for good.
Arınç noted that Turkey's goal is to realize peace process between Israel and united Palestinian political factions. He said Turkey is closely interested in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and that Turkey believes strengthening the unity of Palestinians will benefit the Palestinian people. He underlined that Hamas and its leaders are “significant figures” in this process and that Turkey's relations with Hamas is limited only to what he said.