Even as the EU canceled a parliamentary visit to Ankara scheduled for Wednesday, and UN Secretary-General Ban Kimoon criticized Turkey for its handling of the recent protests, embattled Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday welcomed Hamas leaders Khaled Mashaal and Ismail Haniyeh for meetings in the Turkish capital.

It was not immediately clear if the arrival of the Hamas leaders was in lieu of a visit Erdogan has said he intended to make to Gaza.

Shortly after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu phoned Erdogan in March to apologize for operational errors that might have caused loss of life on the i, Erdogan announced he would visit Gaza in April. The planned visit, which annoyed the US because it seemed to undermine the Palestinian Authority, was then pushed off until after Erdogan’s mid-May visit to Washington.

No new date has yet been announced, although Erdogan has said he intends to go through with the visit despite American objections.

Officials in both the Prime Minister’s Office and the Foreign Ministry refrained from commenting on the Hamas leaders visit to Ankara.

The Turkish daily Today’s Zaman said Mashaal and Haniyeh were scheduled to meet Erdogan late Tuesday. The “Palestinian Embassy” in Ankara told the paper they were not informed by either Ankara or Hamas about the visit beforehand.

Today’s Zaman speculated that the Hamas leaders were looking for Turkish help in reconciling differences inside the organization between one camp interested in aligning itself with Iran and Syria, and another which wanted to move closer to Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

While Israel has been careful not to comment on either Erdogan’s crackdown on the protests or at his hints of a Jewish conspiracy behind them, the American Jewish Committee had no such compunctions, issuing a statement saying it was “deeply dismayed” by comments of Erdogan and others in Turkey suggesting Jews were behind the protests.

“Incendiary words have consequences,” said AJC executive director David Harris, who urged Turkey’s political leadership and media to end “the fictitious conspiracy theories.”

In a letter to Turkey’s ambassador to the United States, according to an AJC statement, the organization expressed concern about Erdogan’s “delusional prejudices” regarding Jews. Erdogan recently suggested that unrest in Turkey could be attributed to “the interest-rate lobby,” a term that has been associated in the Turkish media in the past with an alleged conspiracy of Jewish businessmen.

“Whatever protests and opposition Prime Minister Erdogan may face domestically, they are home-grown,” said Harris.

“To blame such disturbances on external forces and to resort to age-old Jewish conspiracy canards is pure cowardice and runs the risk of incitement. Erdogan should be called to task by responsible world leaders for such crude tactics rather than facing up to the reality that a significant segment of the Turkish public is challenging his increasingly authoritarian rule.”

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