Gaza's Hamas premier visits Turkey

AP News
Posted: Jan 01, 2012 1:55 PM
Gaza's Hamas premier visits Turkey

Turkey's prime minister on Sunday welcomed efforts toward reconciliation between the rival Palestinian factions during a meeting with the Hamas premier of the Gaza Strip, Turkey's state-run news agency reported.

Ismail Haniyeh is on an official tour of the Muslim world, his first trip outside the blockaded territory since the Islamist group took over Gaza in 2007. Turkey is trying to help efforts toward a reconciliation between the rival Palestinian Hamas and Fatah factions.

Haniyeh met Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu at the Turkish leader's Istanbul residence. Erdogan expressed hope that the Palestinians "attain an all-encompassing umbrella organization with strong democratic representation powers," the Anadolu Agency reported.

Erdogan's spokesman was not available for comment.

On Monday, the Hamas prime minister will meet the head of an Islamic aid group whose Gaza-bound vessel was the target of a deadly raid by Israeli troops in 2010. Turkey's ties with Israel, a former ally, deteriorated sharply over the flotilla raid that killed nine activists on the Turkish boat, and Erdogan has demanded that Israel lift all restrictions on the Palestinian territory.

Hamas officials say the goal of Haniyeh's trip is to improve ties with Muslim countries swept up in the uprisings shaking the Arab world.

Hamas and Fatah joined in a short-lived unity government following 2006 parliamentary elections. But the following year, the alliance shattered and Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip during several days of fighting, leaving the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority in charge in the West Bank. Repeated attempts at reconciliation failed, and both sides have cracked down on the other in their respective territories.

Reconciliation talks currently under way with Egyptian mediation appear to be making progress, with both Fatah and Hamas saying they hope to allow Palestinian elections to go ahead in 2012.