Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal 311 Reu.
(photo credit: Khaled Al Hariri / Reuters)
Israel initiated the controversial visit of Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal to Turkey in 2006, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Abdullatif Sener claimed during an interview with Turkish newspaper Zaman Today.
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Sener told the newspaper that "the visit was planned at the request of the Israeli government at the time."
“The official invitation was extended to Mashaal after a secret
agreement was brokered between Turkey and Israel," the former AKP Party
deputy said during the interview.
The visit was seen as the start of worsening ties between Turkey and Israel. Some even suggested that the ruling AKP Party was changing its axis in foreign policy.
During the interview, Sener argued that the visit was merely a public relations stunt to create the impression that Turkey was flexing its muscles against Jerusalem.
“The public bashing of Turkey over this visit was carefully planned to project Turkey’s image as a rising star to domestic and foreign audiences in the region,” he noted.
"Israel was very happy about the visit because Hamas had come to power in Gaza, and this man was one of the organization’s powerful leaders," Sener said during the interview.
He went on to explain that Israel could not contact Hamas directly. "Our relationship with Hamas fits the Israelis’ plans in the sense that some Israeli demands can be conveyed to Hamas through Turkey," the former Turkish deputy prime minister said.