Turkish FM met Hamas supremo in Damascus

ANKARA- Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has met Hamas supremo Khaled Meshaal in Damascus, the Anatolia news agency reported on Tuesday, a move that threatens to fan fresh tensions with Israel.
During Monday's meeting, the two men discussed efforts to heal the rift between the Islamist Hamas and the Fatah faction of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, Anatolia said.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu
The Middle East peace process was also on their agenda, it said.
Meanwhile, Hamas said on its website the talks also covered "ways of breaking the (Israeli) embargo" on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip and that Davutoglu pledged Turkey would "pursue its efforts to lift" the blockade.
The meeting took place amid simmering tensions between Turkey and its one-time ally Israel over the killing of nine Turks on May 31 in an Israeli raid on a Turkish ship that was part of a flotilla carrying aid to Gaza.
Davutoglu told Meshaal Ankara was still demanding an apology from Israel for the raid, compensation for the families of the victims and an international probe into the attack, the website reported.
Turkish foreign ministry officials contacted by AFP were unable to immediately confirm the meeting.
Davutoglu visited Damascus on Monday for talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad before heading to Afghanistan for an international conference on the future of the war-torn country.
Israel considers Hamas a terrorist organisation and has reacted angrily to previous contacts between Turkish officials and the militant group.
But in an tirade following the deadly flotilla attack, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan rejected the "terrorist" label for Hamas and defended the group as "resistance fighters who are struggling to defend their land."
Erdogan's Islamist-rooted government insists that peace cannot be achieved in the Middle East if Hamas is excluded from the process.
It has also urged the armed group, which has called for the destruction of Israel, to renounce violence and engage in peaceful politics.
The ill-fated aid flotilla, spearheaded by a Turkish Islamist charity, had aimed to break the Israeli blockade of the impoverished Palestinian enclave and deliver tonnes of humanitarian supplies to its people.
Israel eased the blockade -- originally imposed in a bid to pressure Hamas to end rocket attacks on southern Israel -- following international pressure in the wake of the raid.
In February 2006, Ankara angered Israel when it hosted a delegation led by Meshaal following Hamas's victory in Palestinian elections.
A Turkish team led by Davutoglu in January 2009 acted as a mediator between Hamas leaders based in Syria and Egyptian officials seeking to hammer out a ceasefire deal to end Israel's devastating 22-day war on Gaza.

Wednesday, July 21st 2010

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