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MEHMET ALİ BİRAND

mab@hurriyet.com.tr

MEHMET ALİ BİRAND > What does Hamas bring to Turkey, what does it take away?

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The Hamas organization is looking for a host. They must have understood that they could no longer stay in Damascus; they are testing the waters in those capitals they feel closer to. Obviously, they have sent word to Ankara and the government has thought it over. 

Government spokesperson Bülent Arınç gave a statement after a Cabinet meeting on Jan. 30. It did not sound convincing to my ears. He said it was currently out of the question that Hamas political bureau leader Khaled Mashaal would open an office in Turkey. It looked to me as if the government was a little hesitant. He talked as if the situation might change in the future and that he avoided saying anything binding. I might be wrong but I have doubts that the matter is totally closed. 

Let’s not forget that Hamas is a controversial party. It is a “savior” for Palestinians in Gaza; it is Fatah’s enemy for Palestinians in the West Bank. For many countries that are pro-Israel, it is considered a terror organization that kills civilians. For Turkey, Hamas is a “legal” party that has won elections in Gaza, representing the Palestinian people.

Now, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of Hamas moving offices to Ankara. 

Cons 

Turkey was, in the past, in an influential position as a country that was able to negotiate with all the parties on the Palestine issue. It lost this position to a great extent with the Mavi Marmara incident.

With Hamas coming to Ankara, Turkey will become a side to the problem and will entirely lose its former influence. 

Concerns will increase in relations with the United States. Its relations will Israel will come to a point where recovery will be impossible. The debate that the Justice and Development Party (Ak Parti) government is shifting Turkey’s axis will restart. 

Turkey will not be able to control Hamas’ activities in Gaza and its attacks toward occupied territories; thus, after each missile launched or after each attack, several capitals will turn to Ankara and even blame it. 

Pros

- Turkey’s international profile will rise, especially among Islamic countries. 

- Its role in the negotiations for a solution to the Palestine problem will increase to a certain extent (although let’s not exaggerate it). 

- Among the several balances in the region, Ankara’s words will be listened to a little bit more. 

In summary, it looks as if the risks of hosting Hamas seem to be more. Its cons are more than its pros. Also, if the Fatah-Hamas partnership is set up, Turkey’s advantages will decrease even more. Fatah’s dominance will be felt. Meanwhile, we should not forget that Arab countries such as Egypt and Jordan that carry the weight of the Palestine issue the most will change their views about Turkey. These countries will be bothered that Turkey is entering a field they see as their own backyard. 

The Middle East is an extremely dangerous quagmire. The Palestine issue is another quagmire that is very difficult to solve. I don’t understand what we will gain by entering such a quagmire up to our throats. I don’t see any significant advantage either. 

February/01/2012

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