US shifts Turkey strategy as it condemns Erdogan-Hamas meeting

The US State Department pointed out that Hamas is a designated terrorist organization and that the officials that Erdoğan met with are “special designated global terrorists.”

TURKISH PRESIDENT Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrives for a meeting in Brussels in March.  (photo credit: YVES HERMAN / REUTERS)
TURKISH PRESIDENT Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrives for a meeting in Brussels in March.
(photo credit: YVES HERMAN / REUTERS)
The US State Department on Tuesday strongly objected to Turkey’s hosting of two Hamas leaders in Istanbul over the weekend. They received red-carpet treatment from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The statement condemned their meetings as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo departed Israel for Sudan.
It marks a shift in US policy by standing up to Ankara’s continued support for the terrorist group; for years, the US ignored its Turkish ally’s increasing support for Hamas. This was part of a strategy in which the US was seeking closer ties with Turkey as part of wishful thinking that Ankara would turn away from Iran and Russia and work with the US on regional issues.
Instead, Erdogan hosted two high profile meetings with the Hamas terrorists on Saturday.
Ankara has granted Hamas members Turkish citizenship, and Hamas has plotted attacks on Israel from Turkey, according to news reports in the UK.
Hamas is a designated terrorist organization, the US State Department said, and the officials Erdogan met with are “special designated global terrorists.”
The US has promised a reward for capture of the terrorists, yet in Istanbul they were treated like foreign heads of state.
“President Erdogan’s continued outreach to this terrorist organization only served to isolate Turkey from the international community, harms the interests of the Palestinian people and undercuts global efforts to prevent terrorist attacks launched from Gaza,” the State Department said in a statement, adding that it was the second incidence of such meetings, the previous one having taken place on February 1.
Turkey has positioned itself as increasingly opposed to US policy, leading criticism of the US moving its embassy to Jerusalem and continually bashing Washington for its support of Kurdish fighters who defeated ISIS in Syria.
Ankara has enabled ISIS members to flee to Turkey from Syria, and it previously detained a US pastor, harassed a US soldier and imprisoned a US Consulate employee. It has lashed out at foreign leaders, comparing Israel and European countries to Nazis, calling Europeans “spoiled children” and arguing that Turkey will carry out military operations wherever it wants.
Turkey is increasingly challenging Greece in the Mediterranean, where the UAE sent F-16s on Tuesday to conduct a joint exercise with the Greeks. Israel has supported Greece in its standoff with Turkey.
Over the past two years, Turkey has accused Israel of supporting terrorists, a label it applies to Kurdish fighters in the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces in Syria, and demanded the US withdraw from eastern Syria.
US President Donald Trump spoke with Erdogan numerous times over the past two years and agreed to leave part of Syria last October.
Today, the US continues to have a presence in eastern Syria, where it says it is securing oil fields. A recent deal with a US oil company appeared to cement those dealings. But Trump said he would make a decision about what to do in Syria fairly soon.
This leaves a lack of clarity about the US’s Syria policy. Nevertheless, the US statements on Erdogan’s Hamas meetings appear to represent a shift in policy.