Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with Hamas chairman Khaled Mashaal over the weekend, showcasing his longstanding support for the Muslim Brotherhood and its Palestinian terror affiliate that rules the Gaza Strip.
The meeting comes as diplomatic ties continue to closen between Turkey and the State of Israel, which fought a war against Hamas in the summer of 2014, after the Islamist terror group ignited a conflict by ordering the murder of three teenage boys in Israel.
Mashaal – the Hamas chairman who is worth billions of dollars, while many of his fellow Palestinians in Gaza live in desolate conditions – “briefed Erdogan on the latest developments in the region,” according to a Reuters report.
There was no mention of whether the two discussed Turkey’s rapprochement with Israel. Hamas is holding off on making its position clear on the matter, waiting for “an official announcement,” Mahmoud Zahar, a Hamas leader, told the Jerusalem Post last week. Another official, Bassem Naim, saw the normalization between the two countries as “not happy news.”
But relations appear to have soured between Hamas and Turkey, following a Monday report that Hamas’s top operative in the country has been forced to leave to another state.
Although no text has been signed to confirm the normalization of relations between Turkey and Israel, a “draft is being worked on,” according to the AKP ruling party’s deputy chairman, Omer Celik.
Relations stalled for years between the two sides following the Mavi Marmara incident, when Turkish activists attempt to bust Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza, resulting in casualties. Turkey claims the activists were carrying humanitarian aid. Israel claims there was no humanitarian aid on board, and only armed Islamists who were members of a group designated as a terrorist organization.
It appears as if the two countries have moved on from the years-long dispute, and have made a concerted effort to restore ties.
Israeli and Turkish officials have been meeting secretly in Switzerland for some time in an effort to normalize ties between the two Mid East powers. Mr. Celik told reporters on Sunday, “the state of Israel and its people are friends of Turkey.”
“Our criticisms until now are aimed at some actions of the Israeli government that are extreme and which we regard as illegitimate,” he added.