US ‘concerned’ over Hamas-Turkey relations

US ‘concerned’ over Hamas-Turkey relations

US ‘concerned’ over Hamas-Turkey relations

US State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki.

The U.S. Department of State has conveyed its concerns about the relationship between Hamas and Turkey to Turkish officials, a day after Ankara said the leader of Hamas is "welcome in Turkey."

“Our position on Hamas has not changed. Hamas is a designated foreign terrorist organization that continues to engage in terrorist activity and demonstrated its intentions during the summer’s conflict in – with Israel,” U.S. State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki said during daily press briefing on Jan. 8.

Psaki's remarks came in response to a question about Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu’s statements that Khaled Mashaal, the head of Hamas’ political bureau, is "welcome in Turkey."

“We continue to raise our concerns about the relationship between Hamas and Turkey with senior Turkish officials, including after learning of Mashaal’s recent visit there. And we have urged the government of Turkey to press Hamas to reduce tensions and prevent violence,” she stated.

In late December 2014, Mashaal had made a surprise appearance at the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) annual congress, standing side by side with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu while addressing the public in the Central Anatolian province of Konya.

Some media reports on Jan. 6 claimed the exiled Hamas leader had been expelled from Qatar, where he has been residing, and that he would go to Turkey, but the organization has denied those claims.

When asked about the reports on Jan. 7, Çavuşoğlu said Hamas had already denied those reports, but noted that “regardless of which country they belong to, people are free to come and go to Turkey as they wish, as long as there are no legal impediments.”

He added that “there are some who criticize Turkey’s contacts with Hamas, but they realize that permanent peace cannot be established without a national unity coalition and Hamas, so they appreciate [our] relations with Hamas.”

Çavuşoğlu also stressed that Turkey has told Hamas that “it has won an election and needs to lay down arms.”