Ball in Israel’s court, Hamas not an issue: Turkish FM
Emine Kart - ANKARA
AA photoAny deal between Turkey and Israel to normalize their strained relations depends on action taken by Tel Aviv, Ankara has said, adding that Turkey’s relationship with Hamas in Gaza cannot be a subject for the talks.
“Whether a balance is to be struck or not in the first next meeting – this depends on the steps that Israel will take. Our conditions are extremely plain, these [conditions] need to be fulfilled, like how our demand for an apology was fulfilled,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said June 22 at a press conference in Ankara alongside visiting Turkish Cypriot Foreign Minister Tahsin Ertuğruloğlu.
Turkey has demanded Israel fulfill three conditions prior to any normalization in ties, namely, an apology for Israel’s raid on the Mavi Marmara aid convoy in 2010 that killed 10 Turkish activists, compensation to the families of the deceased and an end to the embargo on Gaza.
“Our Palestinian brothers living there are living under extremely difficult conditions,” Çavuşoğlu said, referring to Gaza.
“There are electricity and water problems. Israel has unfortunately bombed many schools and hospital infrastructure, these need to be rebuilt. Humanitarian aid and development aid need to be transported to Gaza and Palestine without any obstruction. We are discussing all of these matters in a detailed way,” he said.
A few hours before Çavuşoğlu’s press conference, The Jerusalem Post reported claims by Hamas which said that Turkey had renounced the condition that Israel lift the siege on Gaza as part of its prerequisites for reconciliation.
The daily quoted unnamed Hamas officials as saying in a conversation with the London-based Arab newspaper Rai al-Youm: “Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced to Hamas’ leadership that he has done everything possible to lift the siege or ameliorate it, but the Israeli government stubbornly rejected his attempts.”
“Erdoğan told the leadership that he must make progress on the normalization deal with Israel in order to serve Turkey’s interests,” the same official in Hamas was quoted as saying.
The unnamed Hamas officials said “they expect Turkey to take strong measures against senior Hamas officials residing in Turkey, mainly by limiting their freedom of movement within the state, to meet Israel’s condition for normalization.”
Hamas meeting in 2006
Çavuşoğlu argued that he does not think there is “a problem concerning Hamas.”
“Our discussions with Hamas were never a secret from the very beginning. Suggestions we have made to Hamas leaders are also not a secret. On one side, we are trying to make a contribution to the Middle East peace process. We know that we haven’t been able to make this contribution adequately because our relations with Israel went off track. But everybody who has been paying attention to the Middle East issue, all of the countries and Israel, today acknowledge that there can be no permanent peace or solution without Hamas,” he said.
“Therefore, from now on too, our contacts will continue in the context of the [importance] of the unity of Hamas and Fatah in Palestine and in the context of making contribution to the Middle East peace process. Countries that reacted to us for this subject when we first contacted Hamas after they won the elections, even Israel, have greatly understood what we want to do. That’s why there is no condition called ‘Hamas’ to normalize our relations with Israel,” he added.
The foreign minister was referring to Hamas’ exiled political chief Khaled Mashaal’s visit to Ankara in 2006 when he met with then-Foreign Minister and former President Abdullah Gül at the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). At the time, it was reported that former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, then-chief foreign policy adviser to then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, was the architect of the visit and had persuaded Erdoğan to allow the visit.