Hamas Leaders in Ankara, Invited to Moscow

A delegation of senior Hamas leaders arrived in Turkey on Thursday, February 16, for talks with Turkish officials, and will travel to Moscow in the next few days after receiving an official invitation for talks.

Hamas Leaders in Ankara, Invited to Moscow

"The expectations of the international community following the Palestinian elections will be clearly conveyed during the talks," the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement cited by Agence France-Presse (AFP).

It added that Hamas had asked to send a delegation to Turkey.

The visiting delegation is chaired by Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal and includes four of the group's senior officials.

Their visit was the first stop in a tour of Muslim states that is intended to muster support for Hamas as Western powers step up pressure on the group which swept last month's Palestinian legislative election and prepares to form the new government.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had offered to act as go-between for Israel and the new Palestinian administration.

A Turkish official said both the United States and Israel had been informed late on Wednesday of the visit.

Party Talks

Erdogan has apologized for not meeting the Hamas leaders who are instead scheduled to hold talks with senior officials of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, who will attend the meeting as a senior AKP leader and not in his official capacity, defended the talks as an effort to pave the way for Middle East peace negotiations.

"There should be no violence for peace talks to take place, for them (Hamas) to become an interlocutor," Gul told reporters.

"The peace process should enable the establishment of an independent Palestinian state and its coexistence alongside Israel as two independent states," he added.

In comments to Israeli public radio on Thursday, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said Gul had telephoned three days earlier to inform her of the meetings with Hamas and its aim.

"We were not surprised by the invitation. (Gul) wanted to update me that the meeting was going to take place," she said.

Livni said she had expressed to Gul Israel's position that talks with Hamas "only undermine" the international community's efforts to make Hamas change its ways.

"We don't like these meetings because... Israel does not seek mediators or negotiations on the conditions," she added.

Turkey, a predominantly Muslim but strictly secular state, has been Israel's main regional ally since 1996, when the two countries signed a military cooperation accord, much to the anger of Iran and Arab countries.

Moscow Invitation

Despite Israel's attempts to form a united international front against Hamas, several countries have agreed to hold talks with members of the group.

"We have received an invitation to travel shortly to Russia," senior Hamas leader Ismail Haniya told Agence France-Presse (AFP) Thursday.

Haniya, who led the group's list during the legislative polls and is tipped to be the new premier, said Hamas delegation would travel to Moscow "in the next few days."

The delegation would be "composed of officials from the Palestinian territories and those who are in exile," he added.

Russia's special envoy to the Middle East Alexander Kalugin was quoted as saying the Hamas delegation could visit Moscow towards the end of the month.

"The visit could take place approximately around the end of February, but this has yet to be agreed," he told the Interfax news agency.

Jordan also said it would welcome a delegation from the resistance group, which was banned six year ago.

"We welcome a visit of a delegation of our brothers the leaders of Hamas in their capacity as leaders of a Palestinian faction which we respect and value," Jordanian Prime Minister Maaruf Bakhit told parliament on Wednesday.

"Jordan looks forward to the formation of a new Palestinian government and hopes these efforts will be crowned with success in achieving the Palestinian people's quest to end Israeli occupation and set up an independent Palestinian state on Palestinian national soil, with Al-Quds (occupied East Jerusalem) as its capital," he added.

Meshaal was expelled from Jordan in 1999.

The group's spokesman Ibrahim Ghosheh and political bureau members Wzzat Rushuq and Samir Khatar were thrown out of Jordan in November 1999 on claims of threatening national security and stability.

Ban

Stepping up the ante against Hamas, a senior Israeli official said they will prevent any Hamas prime minister from traveling to the Ramallah-based seat of the Palestinian Authority.

"Those who belong to a terrorist movement that advocates the destruction of the state of Israel cannot claim any privilege concerning their freedom of movement," said the official.

Asked how a Hamas prime minister would carry out his duties under such conditions, the official said he could "do it thanks to the Internet."

Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz will recommend that Israel bans Palestinians from traveling between the Gaza Strip and West Bank, and from working in the Jewish state, the public radio reported Thursday.

Mofaz will also advise that projects such as building a sea port for Gaza and efforts to revive an airport in the territory are frozen following the inauguration of a Hamas-dominated parliament.

Last Mod: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16
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