Hamas chief in Turkey to meet PM Erdogan

AFP, Friday 16 Mar 2012

Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal arrives in Turkey to meet with PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a meeting that was not on Erdogan's daily itinerary distributed to the press

A photo of Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal (Photo: Reuters)

Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal arrived in Turkey on Friday to meet with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who advocates cooperation with the Islamist movement, a close aide to the premier said.

"The prime minister will meet with Meshaal at 2:00 pm (1200 GMT)," the source told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The meeting was not on Erdogan's daily itinerary distributed to the press.

The Islamic-conservative government led by Erdogan is at odds with Israel, and an ardent defender of the Palestinian cause for establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state.

Hamas is considered a terrorist organisation by Israel and many Western countries, but not by Turkey.

The head of the Hamas government in Gaza, Ismail Haniya, was received with enthusiasm during a visit to Turkey in early January, as part of his first-time regional tour.

In Istanbul, Haniya particularly praised the nine Turks killed during an Israeli raid on a humanitarian aid flotilla on its way to Gaza in May 2010.

Ties between Turkey and Israel, once close allies, have deteriorated significantly after the assault against the Turkish flagship of the international flotilla.

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