Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan held talks on Sunday with Gaza’s Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniya and voiced his support for Palestinian reconciliation efforts, media reports said.
Haniya is in Istanbul as part of his first official regional tour since his Islamist movement seized power in the Palestinian enclave in 2007, the Anatolia news agency reported.
Ankara has sought to mediate in efforts to reconcile Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas’s Fatah faction and Hamas despite Israeli ire over its contacts with the Islamist movement ruling the Gaza Strip.
Hamas and Fatah signed a reconciliation deal in May after years of bitter and often deadly rivalry, but its implementation has since stalled.
Haniya’s trip follows a visit to Turkey in November by Abbas, who angered Israel when he met a woman freed under a prisoner deal who had been sentenced to life for luring an Israeli teenager to his death through an Internet chat room.
Erdogan’s government insists that peace cannot be achieved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict if Hamas is excluded from the process.
The Turkish premier has rejected the “terrorist” label for Hamas, defending the Islamist group as “resistance fighters who are struggling to defend their land”.
Relations between Israel and Turkey also soured after Israeli commandos launched a raid on a Turkish boat trying to break the Gaza blockade in May 2010, killing nine Turkish nationals.
Haniya is due to visit the vessel on Monday and meet relatives of the victims, as well as holding a press conference.
Since 2007, the Palestinian territories have been politically divided into two separate territories, with Abbas’s Fatah largely ruling the West Bank and Hamas governing Gaza.