Hamas is not a not a terrorist organization, it is a political party, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told PBS’s Charlie Rose in an interview that was aired late on Wednesday night.

“Let me give you a very clear message. I don’t see Hamas as a terror organization. Hamas is a political party. And it is an organization. It is a resistance movement trying to protect its country under occupation. So we should not mix terrorist organizations with such an organization,” Erdogan said.

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An Israeli official retorted Thursday: “If Hamas is not a terrorist organization, what is?"

“Hamas deliberately targets civilians, puts suicide bombers on a pedestal and sees them as role models for children,” the official told The Jerusalem Post.

“Hamas just recently praised Osama bin Laden and called him a holy warrior,” the official noted.

Israel is not alone in defining Hamas as a terrorist organization; other countries such as the United States and Canada concur, the official said.

During the interview Erdogan defended his position with regard to Hamas, saying that “calling them terrorists, this would be disrespectful to their policy and people.”

In his comments, he ignored the June 2007 coup in which Hamas threw Fatah out of Gaza.

Instead he painted Hamas as an organization that had participated in elections.

Erdogan said the recent reconciliation agreement between Fatah and Hamas was a positive step and that he had invested a lot of time in trying to mend relations between the two Palestinian factions.

“I am very pleased with what has happened. This is what we wanted to see for many years. I spent a lot of efforts as prime minister to bring them together,” he said.

He urged the West to support the new relationship between Fatah and Hamas and Palestinian elections within a year.

Peace in the Middle East starts with internal peace among Palestinians, he said.

Erdogan glossed over Hamas’s refusal to renounce violence and recognize Israel, and emphasized instead Hamas’s statement that it would accept a Palestinian state along the pre-1967 lines.

“A lot of the issues are possible to solve,” he said. “And these developments in Palestine, this politicization process will give an end to violence.”

But for peace to happen, Israel had to stop its “terrorizing” tactics, such as when it boarded the flotilla heading to Gaza last May, including the Turkish ship the Mavi Marmara, and killed nine Turkish activists, he said.

“They attacked our humanitarian assistance flotilla, and did not apologize for that. And they did not accept to pay compensation for our nine martyrs,” said Erdogan.

He added that Israel continued to restrict the flow of goods in and out of Gaza, which he called an “open prison.” Israel, Erdogan said, must apologize for its actions aboard the flotilla and fully open Gaza’s boarders.

He also called on Israel to get rid of its nuclear weapons. Why, he wanted to know, was the world worried about a nuclear Iran, but not about a nuclear Israel? “Iran is pushed although they don’t have nuclear arms. And we find that unfair. If you have to be fair, let’s, first of all, get rid of the atomic bomb in Israel. Then let me act together with you against Iran.

Turning to Turkey’s unsuccessful pursuit of membership in the European Union, he accused the EU of placing unfair obstacles in its path.

“We are at the doors of the European Union. And there is a European Union that does not still accept Turkey as a member. This is their understanding. And what do we lack in Turkey? What do we lack? I mean, there are countries among the 27 members who are well behind Turkey,” he said.


“We say, ‘Open the doors.’ And they are putting those obstacles that they did not put to anybody else,” he said.

As an Islamic democratic country that was also a member of the EU, Turkey could play a role to bridge the gap between other Islamic countries and the West, he said.

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