Erdogan and Meshal Meet in Istanbul as Israel, Turkey Move Toward Reconciliation

Meeting comes at backdrop of Israeli-Turkish efforts to resolve the crisis sparked by the Gaza flotilla raid in 2010.

Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury
Hamas leader Khaled Meshal and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Hamas leader Khaled Meshal and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.Credit: AP
Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan met with Hamas chief Khaled Mashal in Istanbul on Saturday evening, the Daily Sabah reported.

Presidential sources said that Mashal had updated Erdogan on recent developments in the Middle East, but no other details were released.

The meeting comes only two days after it was made known that Turkey and Israel were inching toward an agreement that would end a five-year diplomatic crisis between the two countries.

A Turkish source in Istanbul defined the meeting as "private," and added that Meshal's visit received little media attention. "Apparently he came to hear from Erdogan about the forming agreement, with reports saying that Israel demands that Turkey expel senior Hamas member Saleh al-Aruri as part of the deal," he said.

Arab sources in Turkey told Haaretz noted the difference between the English and the Turkish versions of the story on the Daily Sabah website. The latter, they said, was meant to appease hardline Freedom and Justice Party members.

The crisis was precipitated by an Israeli naval raid on a Turkish flotilla attempting to breach the Israel blockade on the Gaza Strip in 2010. Nine passengers were killed and another died of his wounds later, in violent clashes with Israeli commandos onboard one of the ships, the Turkish Mavi Marmara.

However, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Saturday that Israel had met only one of Turkey's three conditions for normalizing relations between the countries – apologizing for the Turkish deaths on the Mavi Marmara, paying compensation to the families of those killed and lifting the blockade on the Gaza Strip.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met the first condition when he apologized in a telephone conversation with Erdogan in March 2013. Regarding the second, the pending agreement between Israel and Turkey will include a $20 million payment by Israel to a humanitarian fund that will be allocated to the families of the deceased.

The Hamas-affiliated Arsala website in Gaza quoted senior Turkish officials, including parliament members from the Freedom and Justice Party and some of Erdogan's advisers, as saying that the agreement shaping up between Israel and Turkey will not come at the expense of Hamas and will not impinge on the organization's ties with the Turkish government. Some noted that the demand to remove the blockade of Gaza would remain a key condition and that no agreement with Israel would be signed if this issue is not resolved.

Israel, however, has no intention of lifting the Gaza blockade. A senior official in Jerusalem said earlier this week that Israel was interested in finding ways of easing the blockade which could be credited to Turkish efforts.

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