Palestinian Leader Abbas to Visit Turkey on Saturday

(AFP) - Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas is to visit Turkey at the weekend for talks with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a Palestinian official said on Wednesday.

Abbas will also meet Turkish President Abdullah Gul and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu during the Saturday-Sunday trip, the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Erdogan on Sunday announced his intention to visit the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip next month, after a trip to the United States.

Abbas's West Bank-based nationalist Fatah movement, a long-time rival to the Islamist Hamas, has criticised Erdogan's planned Gaza trip as fostering intra-Palestinian divisions.

"Any official, Arab, Muslim or foreign, who visits Gaza without reference to the legitimate Palestinian leadership is blessing and consolidating the division between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip," Fatah official Azzam al-Ahmad told the official Voice of Palestine radio on Monday.

"Abbas must address this issue with Erdogan," he said.

Erdogan, a staunch advocate of the Palestinian cause, had previously said he would visit Gaza in April "to help the process" of lifting an Israeli blockade on the coastal enclave.

That announcement came a day after a breakthrough apology on March 22 from Israel for the deaths of nine Turks during a 2010 raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla which had wrecked ties between the former allies.

Aides pointed to scheduling conflicts for the scrapping of the April visit, but Israeli and Turkish media speculated that US Secretary of State John Kerry had warned Ankara over the trip's "potentially adverse effects" on the new thaw in bilateral ties facilitated by Washington.

Erdogan plans to visit Washington on May 16.

In Gaza City, Hamas deputy prime minister Ziyad al-Zaza told reporters that he hoped Erdogan's visit would present "new possibilities for ending the (Israeli) siege" which he said was costing the economy $250 million per month.


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