Mashaal meets Erdogan, decries Gaza operations

During visit to Ankara, Hamas leader tells Turkish PM Israel used Gaza as experiment to test Iron Dome, IDF weapons.

March 16, 2012 22:50
1 minute read.
Mashaal and Erdogan meet in Ankara

Mashaal and Erdogan meet in Ankara 370. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Israel used weak excuses as a pretext to attack Gaza, Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal told Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday.

During a surprise visit to Ankara, Mashaal told Erdogan that, "Israel used Gaza as a field experiment for the Iron Dome and the IDF's weapons." The Hamas leader thanked the Turkish prime minister for his efforts to achieve Palestinian unity, and to break the siege on Gaza. Erdogan expressed anger regarding Israel's aggression, and warned Mashaal that Israel was trying to drag Gaza into war.

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Turkish daily Today's Zaman reported that the main focus of the meeting was Palestinian reconciliation. The paper quoted Erdogan as saying before the meeting that, “there are positive developments regarding relations between Hamas and Fatah. We will assess these developments.”

The two also discussed cooperation in the Middle East in the context of deteriorating relations between Ankara and Jerusalem, and various developments in the region as a result of the violence in Syria.

The meeting lasted for two hours, and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and Justice and Development Party Deputy Chairman Omer Celik were also present, according to the report.

Earlier Friday, Erdogan said Turkey might set up a border "buffer zone" to protect growing numbers of Syrian refugees fleeing a violent uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad.

With the bloody revolt entering its second year, government forces battled protesters in at least three suburbs of the capital Damascus, opposition activists said. They also reported flare-ups in other towns and cities.

Erdogan, once a firm ally of Assad, said he was considering setting up a buffer zone along the border with Syria. Ankara might then withdraw its ambassador once its nationals had returned home.

"A buffer zone, a security zone, are things being studied," he told reporters in Ankara, but said other ideas were also under consideration. "It would be wrong to look at it from only one perspective."

Reuters contributed to this report

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