Turkey Boosts Its Role in Palestine after Hamas Talks

World | January 2, 2012, Monday // 07:19

Turkey has urged the Palestinian parties to reconcile after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan held talks Sunday with Ismail Haniyeh, leader of Hamas which is in control of Gaza.

During a two-hour, 30-minute-meeting with Haniyeh at the Turkish leader's residence in Istanbul, Erdogan said Hamas and Fatah needed to "urgently agree on the issues," the NTV television channel reported, cited by DPA.

Haniyeh, who is making his first trip abroad since Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip from pro-Fatah forces in 2007, thanked Erdogan for his support for the Palestinians and his efforts to bring the two factions together.

The Turkish call for Hamas to close ranks with the rival Fatah party came just before the Palestinians were due to hold their first direct meeting with Israeli representatives in 15 months.

Palestinian and Israeli representatives have agreed to attend talks in Jordan on Tuesday on how to break the deadlock in the peace process. The meeting will be hosted by King Abdullah II and attended by envoys from the United States, European Union, United Nations and Russia.

According to the NTV channel Turkey's foreign and health ministers and a senior Palestinian health official took part in the talks because Turkey wants to help Gaza's health-care system.

Hamas and Fatah have waged an often-violent campaign for control of Gaza. Haniyeh was appointed Palestinian prime minister, based in Gaza, after Hamas won 2006 general elections. But the West Bank-based president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, fired Haniyeh after Hamas ousted Fatah from Gaza the following year.

Abbas appointed a Fatah official as prime minister, but the move has not been endorsed by the Palestinian legislative council. It is an Abbas appointee, chief negotiator Saeb Erekat, who will sit down with the Israeli envoy in Amman on Tuesday.

Turkish media reported that Haniyeh will also call on Bulent Yildirim, the head of the Turkish Islamic charity, IHH, which sponsored a convoy of ships carrying pro-Palestinian activists and aid to Gaza in May 2010. Israeli commandos seized the convoy in an operation in which eight Turks and one Turkish-American died aboard the Mavi Marmara.

Haniyeh is also expected to visit relatives of those killed in the attack.

The Mavi Marmara flotilla incident led to a sharp decline in relations between Turkey and Israel. Turkey recalled its ambassador, expelled Israel's ambassador, and ceased military manoeuvres with Israel because Israel refused to apologize for the deaths and pay compensation.

The event also boosted Turkey's profile in the Middle East as many Arabs admired the tough stand that Erdogan took against Israel.

Turkey, which recognizes Palestine as an independent state, welcomed the power-sharing deal that Hamas and Fatah signed last year. But the agreement has not been implemented in full because of continued bickering.

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Tags: Palestine, Palestinians, Israel, turkey, Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas, Fatah, Mahmoud Abbas, Gaza Strip, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkish Prime Minister
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