Erdogan says that "Hamas is not a terrorist organization" and cancels his visit to Israel

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The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogandeclared this Wednesday that he does not consider the Palestinian group Hamas “a terrorist organization” and condemned Israel’s “inhumane” bombings in the Gaza Strip. In his toughest speech on the war between Israel and Hamas, unleashed after the attack by Palestinian militants on October 7, the Turkish president criticized the support of Western countries for Israel. “The entire West considers Hamas a terrorist organization. From here I say it: Israel, you can be (a terrorist organization). The West owes you, but Turkey does not,” Erdogan said in a speech before Parliament. “Hamas is not a terrorist organizationis a group of liberation fighters, who fight to protect their land and their citizens,” he described. The Turkish president especially criticized the American support for Israel. “Israel will achieve nothing by bombing children, even if it has the backing of the United States,” she added. “Those outside the region should stop adding fuel to the fire. All parties should take their hands off the trigger and a ceasefire should be declared immediately,” she said.

“We were planning to go to Israel, but we canceled it, we will not go,” Erdogan said, without giving more details about the canceled visit. In recent months, Türkiye had negotiated the possibility of joining a gas pipeline project that crossed the Mediterranean, promoted by Israel and the United States. It is unknown if his participation in the agreement has been frozen after the war between Israel and Hamas. For his part, Erdogan insisted on differentiating the Israeli population from his ruler, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whom he blames for the current situation. “Of course, we had good intentions, but Netanyahu abused them,” Erdogan said. “If he had continued with good intentions, our relationships could have been differentbut now, unfortunately, it will not happen,” he said.

Erdogan warned of the urgency of opening a “humanitarian corridor” for wounded civilians in the Gaza Strip and called for the Rafah border crossing, which connects Gaza to Egypt, to remain open to allow the passage of humanitarian aid. Since the start of the war, Ankara has been in contact with the governments of the region and has offered itself as a mediating actor to reduce tensions. In today’s speech, Erdogan reiterated his intention to mediate the conflict and proposed holding a “summit for Palestine” in Türkiye. Erdogan has shown a more blunt and tough position on the conflict, moving away from a measured speech he took three weeks ago, when he condemned the death of civilians on both sides and called for reducing tensions.

Last year Türkiye and Israel normalized relations and earlier this year they appointed their respective ambassadors. The rapprochement took place after ten years of estrangement diplomat, after Israel attacked a Turkish ship transporting aid to Gaza, killing ten civilians in 2010. In this decade, trade relations between both countries continued, but since the diplomatic rapprochement they increased exponentially. Erdogan and Netanyahu reiterated their rapprochement last month, during a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the UN summit in New York. After the start of the war on October 7, there have been massive protests in Palestine in several cities in Turkey, which have caused the evacuation of Israeli diplomatic personnel for security reasons.

For its part, Erdogan’s government also has good relations with the Hamas militants and for years it has hosted part of the organization’s leadership in Istanbul. Turkish media claim that Ankara had invited the organization to leave Turkey for the duration of the conflict, in an attempt not to create the perception that the Government supports the organization.

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