Last updated: 21 April, 2013

Hamas denounces Kerry’s call on Erdogan to delay Gaza visit

The Hamas rulers of Gaza on Sunday slammed US Secretary of State John Kerry for urging the Turkish prime minister to delay a visit to the Palestinian territory.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri accused Kerry and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas — who met in Istanbul earlier in the day — of “collusion in a bid to maintain the (Israeli) blockade on Gaza.”

“Hamas denounces the US position calling for the cancellation of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Gaza. This proves US involvement in consecrating the Gaza blockade,” Abu Zuhri said in a statement.

Kerry met separately in Istanbul with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Abbas, and told reporters he had asked Erdogan to wait for the “right conditions” before going ahead with a planned visit next month to Gaza.

“We have expressed to the prime minister that it would be better to delay (the visit to Gaza),” Kerry told reporters.

Erdogan announced last week that he was planning to visit Gaza at the end of of next month after a key trip to Washington on May 16 to push for the lifting of the blockade.

Abbas’s West Bank-based nationalist Fatah movement, a long-time rival to Hamas, has said Erdogan’s plans to visit Gaza would foster intra-Palestinian divisions.

And Washington fears Erdogan’s visit could hurt a US-brokered rapprochement between former allies Turkey and Israel after a three-year rift.

Kerry’s talks with Erdogan focused mainly on restoring ties between Turkey and Israel, which collapsed after a deadly Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound aid ship in 2010 that killed nine Turkish activists.

After long refusing Ankara’s demand for a formal apology, Israel last month finally made the gesture at the urging of US President Barack Obama.

But for the full restoration of ties and reappointment of its ambassador to Israel, Ankara insists the Jewish state pay compensation for the raid victims and lift its punishing restrictions on Gaza.

Israeli and Turkish officials meet on Monday for talks on compensation.