Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was non-committal Tuesday on whether
he will visit the Gaza Strip in the near future, as the chaos in Egypt makes it
unlikely he will enter the region through Rafah.
The Turkish daily
Today’s Zaman reported that Erdogan told reporters after a speech to his
parliamentary group that the date of his oft-delayed trip has not yet been
Abdel-Salam Siam, secretary-general of the Hamas-run cabinet in
Gaza, said last week that, barring unforeseen events, Erdogan would visit Gaza
on July 5. Hamas run media outlets reported that he would arrive by sea on a
navy vessel, dock outside Israel’s territorial waters and take a helicopter into
According to the newspaper, Erdogan avoided answering a question
about whether the visit could take place in July, saying he will announce it
when the date is decided.
Erdogan said last week that despite having to
postpone the visit that was scheduled for mid- June because of the Gezi protests
that rocked Turkey, he did intend to make the trip in the near
“These [Gezi] events unfortunately led to this postponement. Gaza
is ready, but we could not be ready because of these events. We could make a
surprise [visit] at any moment,” he said.
Hamas leaders Khaled Mashaal
and Ismail Haniyeh visited Erdogan in Ankara in the midst of the Turkish street
Israel has not been formally appraised of any plan by Erdogan
to visit the region, one official said.
He added, however, that in recent
days a “handful” of Turkish journalists have arrived and asked for accreditation
to cover the possible visit.
Erdogan has been talking about an imminent
trip to Gaza since March, when Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu apologized to
Turkey for loss of life that may have been caused by IDF operational errors on
the Mavi Marmara.
A number of dates – in April, May, June and now July –
have been floated since then for the trip.
While Erdogan remains wildly
popular in Gaza, his stock in the Arab world has declined as a result of his
heavy-handed quelling of the Gezi protests.
He is unlikely to be greeted
warmly by much of Egypt, because he is widely seen as a supporter of the Muslim
Brotherhood, an organization millions of Egyptians now hold in disrepute.