Turkish president meets with Hamas chief in Istanbul

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has met with visiting leader of the Gaza-based Palestinian resistance movement, Hamas, amid reports suggesting that Ankara and Tel Aviv are close to agreeing a deal on normalizing tense ties.

Erdogan received Khaled Meshaal in Istanbul on Friday, Turkey’s official Anadolu news agency reported, quoting presidential sources.

The two sides discussed how to ease the humanitarian problems that the Palestinians are grappling with and how to bridge the differences between Hamas and the Palestinian Fatah movement.

Fatah and Hamas have been at odds after a joint national consensus government was dissolved in June 2015, just a year after it was initially established.

The two key rival factions have had particularly tense relations since Hamas scored a major victory in Palestinian legislative elections in 2006 and emerged the ruling party in the Israeli-besieged Gaza Strip, also triggering Israeli ire and alarm.

Friday’s meeting between Erdogan and Meshaal came at a time that according to Turkish press reports, Ankara and Tel Aviv could hold final talks on concluding a reconciliation agreement on Sunday.

Israel and Turkey were traditionally close allies in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Close Ankara-Tel Aviv relations, however, soured following an Israeli attack on an aid ship that was attempting to break the Israeli naval blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Pro-Palestinian Turks gather on the fourth anniversary of a deadly Israeli raid on the Freedom Flotilla, in Istanbul, Turkey, on May 30, 2014. ©AP

On May 31, 2010, Israeli commandos attacked the Freedom Flotilla in international waters in the Mediterranean Sea, killing nine Turkish citizens and injuring about 50 other people who were part of the team on the six-ship convoy. A tenth Turkish national later succumbed to his injuries.

In September that year, Turkey suspended its military ties with Israel and expelled the Israeli envoy from Ankara over Tel Aviv’s refusal to apologize for its killing of the Turkish nationals aboard the Gaza-bound vessel.

Since last December, however, the two sides have held several rounds of talks aimed at restoring sour ties.

Among Turkey’s key conditions for the reconciliation accord with Israel are an apology and compensation, which are said to be largely met. However, the main hurdle to the agreement is reported to be the lifting of Israel’s blockade on the Gaza Strip.

By Press TV

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