The leader of Hamas stood out as the most applauded foreign guest at a historic congress of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) in the Turkish capital as the prime minister saluted him.
Ankara Arena sports hall, filled with 40,000 AK Party members, including party delegates, exploded in applause when Recep Tayyip Erdoğan mentioned Khaled Meshaal to salute the Hamas leader.
Shortly after he started his historic speech, where he was expected to unveil his party’s 11-year manifesto, Erdoğan listed off names of incumbent and former leaders of states, including Egypt’s President Mohammad Morsi and Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) President Massoud Barzani.
When he mentioned Meshaal, the packed sports hall applauded him, some in standing ovation. To thank crowd for cheering, the Hamas leader stood up and greeted them.
The AK Party wants to turn the convention into a major show of solidarity among the party rank and file while luring as many as 80 foreign dignitaries.
Yemeni Nobel peace laureate Tawakul Karman and the mother and sister of Mohamed Bouazizi, the Tunisian street vendor who triggered the Arab Spring when he set himself on fire on Dec. 17, 2010, were also expected to attend Sunday's congress as guests of honor.
The congress was translated into English, French, Russian, Portuguese and Arabic for foreign participants and it was aired live outside the sports hall on a large screen for those who could not get in. Turkish TV channels also broadcast the congress live for Turkish citizens.