Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met on Friday with head of Hamas’s political bureau Khaled Mashaal in the Turkish city of Istanbul, and discussed with him several issues of mutual interest, amid ongoing negotiations between the Turkish President and Israeli leaders to normalize ties between the two countries, according to various media sources.
A presidential source told Anadolu Agency that Erdogan received Mishaal and other Hamas officials at Yildiz Palace in Istanbul. The two sides discussed the efforts being made to bridge the inter-Palestinian rift and the ways to ease the humanitarian suffering of the population in the Gaza Strip, according the source. Erdogan and Meshaal reportedly discussed strategies of easing humanitarian issues for Palestinians, specifically in Gaza, and ways to reconcile political differences between Hamas and Fatah — two of Palestine’s largest political factions.
However, no sources reported any discussions between Erdogan and Meshaal on Turkey’s expected political normalization with Israel during the meeting.
Mishaal last Thursday expressed his thanks to the Turkish leadership for its strong support for the Palestinian cause and its insistence on ending the blockade on Gaza as a condition for normalizing relations with Israel.
An agreement between Turkey and Israel is expected to be finalized on Sunday, which would see the two countries resume their political relationship following an Israeli attack six years ago on the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara — the first Freedom Flotilla — that was attempting to deliver much-needed humanitarian aid to the besieged Gaza Strip.
According to Israeli media, under the ongoing negotiations, Turkey has demanded that Israel lift the near decades-long siege on Gaza. However, Israel has continuously refused the stipulation.
It is expected, instead, that Israel could allow Turkey to transfer aid to Gaza via the Ashdod port in southern Israel, while permitting authorities to build a hospital in the besieged enclave and construct a power and desalinization plant.
Turkey has also reportedly demanded an apology from the Israeli government for the attack on the Freedom Flotilla, and requested compensation for the incident.
The Gaza strip has suffered an Israeli military blockade since 2007 when Hamas was elected to rule over Gaza.
Residents of Gaza suffer from high unemployment and poverty rates, as well as the consequences of three devastating wars with Israel since 2008.
The UN has warned that unless current trends are altered, Gaza could become uninhabitable for residents in just five years. “The social, health and security-related ramifications of the high population density and overcrowding are among the factors that may render Gaza unlivable by 2020,” the UN’s development agency said last year.