Turkish FM meets Hamas chief over Palestinian rift

AFP , Thursday 7 Apr 2011

Turkey's foreign minister meets with Hamas amid efforts for reconciliation between rival Palestinian factions

Turkey's foreign minister met late Wednesday with the leader of the Hamas movement in Syria to press for reconciliation between feuding Palestinian factions, Anatolia news agency reported.

Ahmet Davutoglu said he held talks with Hamas supremo Khaled Meshaal at the Turkish embassy in Damascus, where he was on a visit to discuss unrest shaking Syria, following a telephone call with Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas last week. Abbas is leader of the rival Fatah faction.

"It is positive that both sides want that national reconciliation is secured as soon as possible," Davutoglu said in the Syrian capital, according to Anatolia.

Abbas and Meshaal differ in their priorities on how the rift between Fatah and Hamas should be healed, he said, but stressed that, "we have the impression that a common ground could be found."

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict "is at the core of the wave of change in the Middle East and many other problems," Davutoglu said. "A possible crisis in Palestine... would cause greater instability in the region," he said. "Israel's recent operations on the Gaza Strip have posed a great risk."

Officials from Fatah and Hamas held talks in late March in a bid to restart reconciliation talks.

The two have been at loggerheads since 2007 when Hamas took control of Gaza, routing Abbas loyalists.

Gaza has been effectively cut off from the West Bank, which is under Fatah control, and the disunity of the Palestinians has prevented them from taking a common stance in peace talks with Israel, which are now off the table.

Israel, which considers Hamas a terrorist group, has reacted angrily to previous contacts between Turkey and the militant resistance group.

But the Islamist-rooted government in Ankara insists that peace cannot be achieved if Hamas is excluded from the process.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip has rejected the "terrorist" label for Hamas, defending the group as "resistance fighters who are struggling to defend their land."

Once-flourishing Turkish-Israeli ties plunged into a deep crisis last May when Israeli forces killed nine Turkish activists in a raid on a humanitarian flotilla, trying to get aid to Gaza.


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