Hamas leader strengthens alliance with Turkey

Hamas leader strengthens alliance with Turkey
Khaled Meshaal attendance at the Turkish ruling JDP party's congress showed the strong relations between them.
2 min read
Khaled Meshaal made an unexpected appearance at the JDP fifth periodic congress [AFP]
The attendance of Khalid Meshaal, the Hamas leader, at the annual congress of the Turkish ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) was on Saturday, 27 December almost threatened to overshadow what was builled as the launch of the party's campaign for the June 2015 parliamentary elections.

The congress was chaired by AKP leader and current Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, but was taken over by
the unexpected appearance of the Hamas leader. In a striking show of support, Meshaal was greeted with chants of: "Mujahid Meshaal", "Hamas: We sacrifice our souls for you," and "down with Israel".
     A Turkey of democracy, renaissance, progress, and stability empowers all Muslims.
- Khaled Meshaal

He delivered a short speech in which he stressed the importance of a strong Turkey for Jerusalem and Palestine. "A Turkey of democracy, renaissance, progress, and stability," Meshaal said, "empowers all Muslims."

For hsi part, Davutoglu used Meshaal's presence to emphasise the AKP's support for "the oppressed", including Syrians and Palestinians.

Meshaal's visit revived talk about the Palestinian Islamnist movement's office in Istanbul. Israeli and US sources, including the US magazine Foreign Affairs, say the office is headed by Salah al-Arouri who was described by Amnesty International in 2012 as "one of the founders of the military wing of Hamas."

Israel says Arouri was behind the kidnapping of three Israeli settlers [AR], which eventually led to the war on Gaza in summer 2014. Arouri moved to Istanbul from Damascus in 2011 at the start of the Syrian revolution when relations deteriorated between the Syrian regime and Hamas.

Murat Yetkin, a well-known Turkish writer for the daily liberal Turkish newspaper Radikal, however, told Al-Araby al-Jadeed that Hamas' office in Turkey was "nothing but a political liaison office that collects a small number of donations from sympathisers".

He ruled out the significance of Meshaal's visit and the idea, floated in some areas, that Ankara would replace Tehran as the main provider of military aid [AR] to the Palestinian movement. Turkey, he said, wouldn't want to cause too much friction in relations with the West and Israel and would also be constrained by its status as a member of NATO.

But relations with Hamas are also important to Turkey's own image as a major regional power. Turkey seeks an active role in the Middle East commensurate with its size. Hamas, to Turkey, offers one lever of influence.

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.