Erdogan meets Palestinian prez, Hamas leader

ISTANBUL: Turkey’s leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday spoke in Ankara with the Palestinian president and the head of Hamas in the run-up to a crucial meeting of Palestinian factions set for the weekend. Erdogan, who has good ties with Mahmoud Abbas of the Fatah party and Hamas’ political bureau chief Ismail Haniya, has said his government will do its best to push for intra-Palestinian reconciliation. He told Wednesday’s meeting, which was held behind closed doors, that a lack of unity among the Palestinians benefited those “who wanted to undermine peace” according to the Turkish leader’s office.

An official in the Palestinian presidency told AFP that Abbas “invited all Palestinian factions, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad, to attend the meeting of the heads of the factions in Cairo” on Sunday. The meeting will “discuss how to confront aggression against the Palestinian people, especially from the extremist (Zionist) government, and to strengthen Palestinian unity,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Sources close to the Fatah party and Hamas said that the Ankara meeting organized by Erdogan focused on Palestinian unity and how to end divisions.

The meeting is “very important especially in light of the continuation of the (Zionist) aggression in Jerusalem and the West Bank and the continuation of settlement activity,” the sources said. The Zionist has occupied the West Bank since the Six-Day War of 1967. Earlier this month, Zionist forces conducted a two-day raid on the Jenin refugee camp razing swathes of the area, and killing 12 Palestinians, including militants and children. The raid on Jenin was one of the biggest operations carried out by the Zionist army in the West Bank in years.

Turkey is home to prominent Hamas officials even though the Palestinian group, which controls the Gaza strip, is considered a terror organization by much of the West. Haniya and the group’s former chief Khaled Meshal visits Turkey often. Erdogan is a fervent supporter of the Palestinian cause and a fierce critic of the Zionist entity — but he altered regional strategy by initiating an outreach to the Zionist entity after several years of tensions. Zionist Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was due to visit Turkey this week, but his visit was later postponed, after he had surgery last weekend and as the Zionist entity is roiled by protests over contentious judicial reform.

Erdogan on Tuesday promised to continue supporting the Palestinian cause and voiced concerns over the flare up of violence in the West Bank, after meeting with Abbas separately. “We will continue to support the Palestinian cause in the strongest way possible,” Erdogan said, alongside the Palestinian leader. “We are deeply worried about the increasing loss of life, destruction, the expansion of illegal settlements and settlers violence,” the Turkish leader said. “The only way to a just and lasting peace in the region is to defend the vision of a two-state solution.” Zionist troops killed a Palestinian in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday, the Palestinian health ministry said, as the army confirmed it was conducting “counter-terrorism activity” in a Nablus refugee camp. – AFP

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