Four days after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he would invite Hamas to Turkey for talks, Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul told Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni Monday that Turkey supported the international community's three preconditions for accepting Hamas.
Gul, in a conversation kept under wraps both in Israel and Turkey, stressed that Turkey accepted Israel and the Quartet's position that Hamas must renounce violence and disarm, recognize Israel and accept previous agreements with it.
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On the same day that Russian President Vladimir Putin infuriated Israel by inviting Hamas to talks in Moscow, Erdogan said in an interview with al-Jazeera, "First of all, I must say that Hamas entered the elections as a political party and won the people's confidence. The whole world must accept and respect the results of these democratic elections.
"This means we all must continue the aid we used to extend to the Palestinian people and not stop it," Erdogan added. "We must not forget that the Palestinian people are under siege as if they were in a large prison."
Erdogan said that both Hamas and Israel needed to recognize each other. "The two sides must respect the previously signed agreements," including the road map, saying the "two states must resume peace negotiations."
Regarding whether Turkey would welcome a Hamas delegation to Ankara, Erdogan said, "Hamas won in the elections, but the government has not been formed yet. In case Hamas asks for a meeting with the Justice and Development Party [Erdogan's party], I will agree because Hamas is a lawful party that won in the elections and there is no reason why I should not meet with them. But in case Hamas forms a government and wins the confidence of parliament, I will then meet with them in my capacity as Turkish prime minister, exactly as I have earlier met with the Palestinian prime minister and president."
Turkish officials stressed Tuesday that no meetings were scheduled between Hamas and Turkish officials in Ankara.
Israeli officials said there was not necessarily a contradiction between Erdogan and Gul's statements, and that the Turkish position resembled that of the Russians - that they are willing to talk to Hamas, but only to tell the organization that it must accept the three conditions spelled out by the Quartet.
Meanwhile, the online edition of the Turkish English daily The New Anatolian
quoted Turkish diplomats Tuesday as saying that while the Hamas victory has changed Turkey's approach to the organization, "face-to-face" official talks with Hamas were still out of the question. "But it's true that we have some indirect contacts with the group, and we convey our messages to them," one Turkish diplomat was quoted as saying.
"We tell them to break with their past, and seek their aims on political ground," the diplomat continued. "They have broadened their legitimacy with their clear election victory, but any big mistake now will ruin everything. We also tell the US, Israel and our European partners that Hamas should be given a chance, that this would be a chance for peace."