A top Israel envoy criticized Turkey’s outreach to terror groups Friday, hours after Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was quoted as saying Hamas is not a terrorist organization.

“Turkey has embraced the leaders of Iran and Hamas, all of whom called for Israel’s destruction,” declared Israeli ambassador to the US Michael Oren.

“Our policy has not changed but Turkey’s policy has changed, very much, over the last few years,” he said. “Under a different government with an Islamic orientation, Turkey has turned away from the West.”

But Oren, speaking on a conference call organized by The Israel Project, held out hope for reconciliation. “We certainly do not have any desire in any further deterioration in our relations with the Turks,” he noted. “It’s an important Middle Eastern power. It has been a friend in the past.”

Earlier Friday, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared at a rally in the Turkish province of Konya that Hamas was not a resistance movement.

Erdogan said Hamas, the legitimate winner of the Palestinian elections, was fighting for its land. "You are always talking about democracy. You’ll never let Hamas rule. What kind of democracy is this?” he was quoted as saying by Turkish daily Hurriyet, apparently addressing the Israeli leadership.



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“I do not think that Hamas is a terrorist organization," Erdogan was quoted as saying. "They are Palestinians in resistance, fighting for their own land."

The Turkish leader went on to echo the Tuesday speech in which he called Israel's boarding of the Gaza flotilla "a massacre." In his address Friday, he said the Ten Commandments should have deterred the soldiers from killing the nine passengers who died on board the ship. “If you do not understand it in Turkish I will say it in English: You shall not kill,” he reportedly said - repeating the phrase in Hebrew.

“They even slaughtered 19-year-old Furkan. They did not even care for the babies in the cradle,” Erdogan was quoted as saying.

Nineteen-year-old Furkan Dogan was the youngest of the nine activists killed in the raid. His funeral Friday in his family's hometown in Kayseri in central Turkey drew 10,000 people, some chanting, "Down with Israel."

"Neither I nor his mother or brother have any grief," his father, Ahmet Dogan, told the Associated Press as he arranged flowers on his son's coffin before prayers started. "We believe he became a martyr and God accepts martyrs to paradise."

In his speech, Erdogan also slammed Turkish media reports which were critical of his party's support of Hamas, saying the "columnists" had a slanted view of the events.

Earlier on Friday, Turkey's deputy prime minister said his country would work to reduce its military and economic cooperation with Israel. Existing contracts, he said, would be reviewed and reworked or canceled.

AP contributed to this report.

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