Hamas leader Mashaal set to meet Turkey’s Erdoğan amid flurry of regional contacts

Hamas leader Mashaal set to meet Turkey’s Erdoğan amid flurry of regional contacts

Hamas leader Mashaal set to meet Turkey’s Erdoğan amid flurry of regional contacts

AFP photo

A senior Hamas leader is set to arrive in Turkey for a meeting with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, amid a flurry of regional contacts made by Hamas that has particularly intensified after the recent nuclear deal between Iran and Western powers.

Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal is scheduled to meet Erdoğan in the early evening of Aug. 12. No official statement has been released regarding the content of the meeting.

Mashaal will also meet incumbent Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu later in the evening. Davutoğlu will host the Hamas leader over a dinner at his official residence, the prime ministry’s press office announced.

Last month, Mashaal, the head of Hamas’ political bureau, paid a rare visit to Saudi Arabia and held a meeting with Saudi King Salman’s meeting only days after days after Iran’s deal with the West.

Saudi Arabia, a conservative Sunni Muslim monarchy, has grown more aggressive this year in countering Shiite Iran across the region, believing its influence to be the main cause of instability and insecurity in Arab states.

Since Salman became king in January, he has tried to build a Sunni coalition against Iran’s regional allies, boosting support for rebels against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and waging war against Yemen’s Houthi militia.

Meanwhile, by putting longstanding differences over political Islam on the backburner, Salman is strengthening ties with both Turkey, a fierce opponent of the al-Assad regime, and Qatar, which has given the militant Palestinian group sanctuary.

Over the weekend, the Huffington Post’s Arabic edition quoted sources as saying that Iran canceled a scheduled visit by a Hamas delegation to the Islamic Republic in response to Mashaal’s visit to Tehran’s rival Saudi Arabia.

Within days, a visit to Turkey by Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, scheduled to take place on Aug. 10, was postponed. The visit was postponed due to a “change in program,” Turkish officals said on Aug. 11, without elaborating on which side requested the delay and on what grounds. 

Days before his visit to Turkey, Mashaal met Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Doha and was invited to Moscow.

Russia has been trying to bring about rapprochement between the Syrian government and regional states, including Saudi Arabia and Turkey, to forge an alliance to fight militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), who have taken large amounts of territory in the Syrian conflict.