Hamas leader Haniyeh to hold Turkey talks

AFP , Saturday 20 Apr 2024

Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh will meet Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday with Middle East tensions at a high after Israel's reported attack on Iran and Gaza bracing for a new Israeli offensive.

Hamas political leader Imsail Haniyeh will meet Turkey s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Hamas political leader Imsail Haniyeh will meet Turkey s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

 

Erdogan has sought but failed to establish a foothold as a mediator in the Palestinian conflict. And he has remained discreet about his meetings with the Hamas head.

"We will keep the agenda between us and Mr Haniyeh," Erdogan said when questioned by journalists on Friday.

But with Qatar saying it will reassess its role as a mediator between Hamas and Israel, Erdogan sent his Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan to Doha on Wednesday in a new sign that he wants a role.

"Even if only I, Tayyip Erdogan, remain, I will continue as long as God gives me my life, to defend the Palestinian struggle and to be the voice of the oppressed Palestinian people," the president said Wednesday when he announced Hamiyeh's looming visit.

Hamas has had an office in Turkey since 2011 when Turkey helped secure the agreement for the group to free Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Erdogan has maintained links with Haniyeh, who has been a frequent visitor.

Foreign Minister Fidan was a past head of Turkish intelligence and the country provided information and passports to Hamas officials, including Haniyeh, according to Sinan Ciddi, a Turkey specialist at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington. This has never been confirmed by Turkish authorities, however.

Erdogan slams Israel

If Qatar withdraws from mediation efforts, Turkey could seek to increase its mediation profile, based on its Hamas links, and Fidan will on Saturday hold talks with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry.

Israel has said it is preparing an offensive against the Gaza city of Rafah and the reported Israeli attack on the Iranian province of Isfahan has only clouded hopes of a peace breakthrough.

But Erdogan can only expect a "very limited" role because of his outspoken condemnation of Israel and its actions in Gaza, according to Ciddi.

Last year, the Turkish leader likened the tactics of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to those of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler and called Israel a "terrorist state" because of its offensive on Gaza after the Hamas's October 7 attacks on Israel.

Ciddi said Erdogan would not be welcome in Israel and at most might be able to pass messages between Palestinian and Israel negotiators.

The expert said that Turkey would not have a major influence over Hamas in deciding the fate of captives it has held since October 7.

The Hamas attacks resulted in the deaths of 1,170 people in southern Israel, according to Israeli official figures.

The militants also took about 250 captives. Israel estimates 129 remain in Gaza, including 34 who are presumed dead.

Israel's brutal war has killed more than 34,000 people in Gaza, mostly women and children. according to the health ministry in the territory.

According to press reports, that have never been denied, Haniyeh and other Hamas leaders were in Istanbul when the attacks were launched. They were requested to quietly leave after a photo showed them celebrating the deadly assault, the report said.

Haniyeh returned to Turkey in January and met Fidan.

The Hamas chief has not met Erdogan since he and Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas held talks with the Turkish president in July 2023.

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