Hamas leader meets with Erdoğan in surprise visit

Hamas leader meets with Erdoğan in surprise visit

Palestinian Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal visits Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Ankara, on March 16, 2012. (Photo: AA)

March 16, 2012, Friday/ 12:10:00

Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal paid a surprise visit to Ankara for talks on Palestinian reconciliation and the Middle East. Mashaal met with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Friday afternoon.

The meeting reportedly focused mainly on Palestinian reconciliation. “There are positive developments regarding relations between Hamas and Fatah. We will assess these developments,” Erdoğan told reporters, adding that regional issues will also be discussed. Erdoğan's meeting with Mashaal lasted two hours. Also present were Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and Justice and Development Party (AK Party) Deputy Chairman Ömer Çelik.

Reconciliation efforts between the two main Palestinian political factions, Hamas and Fatah, are continuing. The last time the two groups came together for talks was in Cairo last December. They reached a key agreement at the time that saw Hamas admitted into the PLO, the umbrella organization of the Palestinian independence movement. The PLO has engaged in two decades of intermittent peace talks with Israel.

Mashaal’s visit followed a fresh bout of violence that erupted between Israel and Palestinian resistance groups. Last Thursday saw the end of a shaky truce brokered in Egypt in December after Israel attacked the Palestinians. Twenty-five Palestinians were killed in the four days of clashes that ensued.

Prior to the conflict, top Hamas officials sent controversial signals that they would not stay on the sidelines if Israel attacks Iran. On March 7, Iran’s Fars News Agency quoted Mahmoud Zahar, a senior Hamas official in Gaza, as saying that “retaliation with utmost power is the position of Hamas with regard to a Zionist war on Iran.”

Although Hamas has cut ties with Syria, one of its major financiers, fleeing its Damascus headquarters in February, its relations with Iran, which backs the Syrian regime, have barely been affected.

Speculation has surfaced that Iran-Hamas ties deteriorated after Hamas abandoned the Assad regime, while Iran remained loyal to the tyrant. Furthermore, claims have surfaced that the flow of Iranian aid to Gaza was affected negatively as a result of international sanctions that have hit the Iranian economy.

However, official visits between the organization and the Iranian administration over the past two months point to the opposite.

In January, following a visit to Turkey by Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, Turkish officials dismissed claims that Turkey will host a Hamas office after it left Damascus. Later that month, Turkey was also reported as preparing to replace Hamas’ chief financier, Iran, to alleviate the Gazan ruling party’s financial straits as it faced difficulties in receiving aid from the Islamic republic.