Senior Hamas leader Khaled Mashal shakes hands with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu during a meeting of Turkey's ruling AK Party (AKP) December 27.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The United States has criticized Turkey for courting Hamas amid reports that leaders of the Gaza terror group could be expelled from Qatar, its top financial and political backer.
If that happens, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu says Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal would be welcome in Turkey whenever he wants.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki was asked about Turkey’s position at the daily briefing in Washington on Thursday.
“Our position on Hamas has not changed,” Psaki said. “Hamas is a designated foreign terrorist organization that continues to engage in terrorist activity and demonstrate its intentions during the summer’s conflict…with Israel. We continue to raise our concerns about the relationship between Hamas and Turkey with senior Turkish officials, including after learning of Mashaal’s recent visit there. And we have urged the government of Turkey to press Hamas to reduce tensions and prevent violence.”
Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain have been pressing Qatar to reduce support for Islamic terror groups. Egypt sees Hamas as an offshoot of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, and in a nod to Cairo, Qatar asked seven senior Brotherhood officials to leave the country in September.
Turkey, which relishes the role of championing the Palestinian cause, seems eager to pick up where Qatar left off. Unlike Israel, the US and Europe, Turkey does not consider Hamas to be a terrorist organization but rather a legitimate resistance movement against Israeli “occupation.”
And Ankara has demanded that Israel lift the blockade on Gaza as a condition for improving bilateral ties.