Turkish FM to meet Hamas leader in bid to secure week-long humanitarian cease-fire
Sevil Erkuş ANKARA – Hürriyet Daily News
Davutoğlu held a series of conversations over the phone with US Secretary of State John Kerry, al-Atyiah and Mashaal late on July 24 and decided to visit Qatar for 'face to face talks,' a Turkish official said. AA PhotoTurkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu is visiting Qatar to meet Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal and Qatari Foreign Minister Khalid bin Muhammad al-Atiyah, in a bid to push forward a truce plan outlining a week-long humanitarian cease-fire and seek terms for a durable truce.
A recent truce plan, jointly built by efforts from the U.S., Qatar and Turkey, proposes a week-long humanitarian cease-fire and immediate session of negotiations to set the terms for a lasting truce.
The cease-fire would allow people in Gaza access to humanitarian aid through the Rafah border and crossings in Israel, as well as will clarify some parameters for lifting the embargo on the enclave, a Turkish official told the Hürriyet Daily News.
Immediately after the cease-fire, these terms could be negotiated in Cairo with indirect talks through representatives from Palestinian groups in Gaza and from Israel.
The mediating parties have been trying to strike a balance between an Egyptian initiative that proposed a lasting truce first and negotiations later. Yet, Egypt’s proposal was rejected by Hamas last week.
Hamas, nonetheless, insists for a truce that would envision a political deal that would include a guaranteed end to Israel’s eight-year blockade of Gaza as a “must,” as well as the release of nearly 60 re-arrested prisoners who were freed by the Gilad Shalit deal in 2011.
“We want a cease-fire as soon as possible, that’s parallel with ending the siege on Gaza,” Mashaal, told the BBC in an interview on July 24.
As the U.S. has been imposing pressure on Israel, on a simultaneous track, Qatar and Turkey have been in talks with Hamas in attempts to convince the group to agree on a cease-fire.
Davutoğlu held a series of conversations over the phone with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, al-Atyiah and Mashaal late July 24 and decided to visit Qatar for “face to face talks,” the official said.
The minister canceled his scheduled trip to France to go to Qatar on July 25.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had difficulty with the failure of the cease-fire plan initiated by Egypt, and approached Turkey last week for help in convincing Hamas on an immediate truce to stop the killings.
As Egypt closed the Rafah crossing into the enclave, they blocked humanitarian aid and even refused the passage of wounded Palestinians, saying they were not seriously injured. Egypt’s decision to do so drew harsh reactions from Palestinian groups, bringing Turkey and Qatar closer to the issue, a source familiar with the issue told the Daily News.
Meanwhile, U.S. Department of State Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf, underlined Turkey has a role to play in the efforts for the truce, because it has ties with Hamas, and therefore Kerry has been involved in intense talks with Davutoğlu.
During a daily press briefing on July 24, Harf was asked why Kerry was frequently holding talks with Davutoğlu despite his and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s comments about Israel that the U.S. regards as “offensive.”
“Because the Turks have a role to play,” Harf responded. “We’ve said those comments made it harder for them to play a role, but they do have a role to play and they have a relationship with Hamas. I mean, they can have conversations that we can’t. So obviously, the Turkish foreign minister is a key player in the region and has some leverage he can bring to bear on the situation. Those two things aren’t mutually exclusive,” she elaborated.