’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hosted a large Hamas delegation on Saturday on the eve of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to Israel
The Hamas meeting was the latest in a series of high-profile Hamas meetings in Turkey that have all been pushed by Erdogan and his team. Turkey is a supporter of Hamas. Hamas has been accused of plotting attacks on Israel in Turkey and Turkey has given Hamas members citizenship, according to media accounts in the United Kingdom. Both Hamas and Turkey’s ruling party have roots in the Muslim Brotherhood, a far-right religious extremist organization. Members of the Brotherhood have been accused of holding antisemitic views.
Hamas praised the meeting with Erdogan on Saturday in a press release. It said that the delegation included Hamas deputy chief Saleh al-Arouri, chief of Hamas abroad Maher Salah and head of Hamas Arab and Islamic religions Ezzat al-Rihiq and Hamas representative in Turkey Jihad Yaghmor. Arouri is a wanted terrorist. Hamas head Ismael Haniyah “congratulated Erdogan on the advent of a new Hijri year, discovery of a new natural gas field and reopening of the Aya Sofia mosque.” The mosque was opened in what had been a museum and historic church. It is one of two ancient churches the Ankara regime recently turned into a mosque.
Hamas says it briefed Erdogan on the “Palestinian cause” and complained about Israel’s annexation plans. Those plans are now on hold after Israel and the UAE agreed to normalize ties. Hamas, Iran and Turkey oppose the Israeli peace deal with the UAE. Hamas said it was working against Israel’s “Judaization of Jerusalem.”
Raf Sanchez of NBC pointed out on Twitter that to Erdogan’s right at the meeting was Arouri, a designated terrorist in the United States with a $5 million bounty on his head. Erdogan has slammed the US in recent years, claiming the US works with “terrorists” in Syria because the US has backed Kurdish fighters against ISIS. It appears that it was Ankara's government hosting wanted terrorists on Saturday.
On August 13, The Telegraph reported that Turkey has been granting citizenship to senior operatives of a Hamas terrorist cell. In December last year the paper also reported that Hamas planned attacks from Turkey. A recent article at The Times in the UK argued that Israel increasingly views Turkey as a threat. An IDF annual assessment last year reportedly mentioned Turkey for the first time as a “challenge.”
The meeting with Hamas in Turkey took place at the Ottoman Sultan Vahdettin’s mansion in Istanbul. The monumental mansion was the home of the last Ottoman Sultan and was renovated in 2014 for Erdogan to host meetings while in Istanbul. The meeting was symbolic of Turkey, a NATO member, attempting to embrace its Ottoman heritage as Erdogan increasingly challenges Greece, France, Egypt and others in the Mediterranean. Israel recently backed Greece as Turkey increased pressure. In addition Israel has signed a pipeline deal with Greece and Cyprus and Egypt and Greece have signed a deal. Turkey has in turn sent a fleet under the cover of a research ship to the Mediterranean and sent Syrian mercenaries to fight in Libya as part of a deal with Libya to lay claim to the sea between the two country’s angering Greece. The UAE and Egypt support the Benghazi-based faction in Libya against the Turkish-backed factions in Tripoli. Turkey’s overall goal is to unite Hamas, the GNA-based government in Tripoli and Qatar in a coalition that looks increasingly anchored in parties linked to the Muslim Brotherhood as part of a grand coalition against the UAE, Egypt, Greece, Israel and other countries.
The Hamas visit to Turkey and the high-level delegation it included was intended to treat Hamas as an equal government to turkey as if Hamas was representing the Palestinians at a time when Israel and the UAE had signed an agreement. It came on the eve of Pompeo’s visit to Israel likely as part of a message. While Turkey is a historic ally of the US and was once close to Israel, the meeting was intended to show that Ankara is now working hand-in-hand with Hamas as part of Turkey’s increasingly close relations with both Iran and its purchasing of air defense systems from Moscow. Hamas receives backing from Iran. No other country in the world provides Hamas the large high-level welcome that Turkey regularly does, not even Qatar, Malaysia or Iran. The concept behind the meeting appears to be to increase the appearance of legitimacy of Hamas at a time when Israel and the UAE are making peace as a way to raise the stature of Hamas.
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