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Turkey: Hamas Must Choose Arms or Negotiation | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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London, Asharq Al-Awsat – Turkey has called on Hamas to choose between becoming a political movement that pursues negotiation in order to achieve its national goals working within the framework of the Palestinian political system, or remaining an armed group, making it clear that Turkey does not support some of Hamas’s activities, and that the movement has made mistakes.

Burak Ozugergin, an adviser to Turkish Foreign Minster Ali Babacan informed Asharq Al-Awsat via telephone that “Ankara believes that Hamas is at a crossroads and must choose between carrying arms or engaging in the political process.” He added “Turkey is not giving advice to Hamas, but Hamas must take all steps that it deems necessary.”

The Turkish official made these comments after Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan said “Hamas should make a decision. Do they want to be an armed organization or a political movement?”

He added “Our suggestion is that they work within the framework of the political system. The party supported by Hamas got 44 percent of the votes in the last elections. It is impossible to ignore this base”.

Turkey, a predominantly Muslim but secular country that historically has had good ties with Israel and the Arab world, played a role in helping broker an end to the offensive this month, particularly by lobbying Hamas to declare a unilateral ceasefire.

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan called Israel’s operations, launched with the aim of ending Hamas’s cross-border rocket attacks, “a crime against humanity,” deploring what he saw as excessive force, and he suggested Israel be barred from the United Nations.

The government has come under criticism for the strong rhetoric it used against Israel during the offensive in the Gaza strip. Turkish opposition parties, ex-diplomats and columnists have accused the government of taking a pro-Hamas stance.

Meanwhile, George Mitchell, President Obama’s diplomatic envoy began his tour of the Middle East yesterday with a visit to Cairo. Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal praised Obama for “his desire to have a strong and fruitful relationship with the Arab world” and said his stance was a “positive development” in Washington’s policy towards the Middle East.

In an interview with the Al-Arabiya satellite television network on Monday, Obama sought to assure the Muslim world that “Americans are not your enemy” and urged Israelis and Palestinians to return to the negotiating table.

Obama has promised to directly address Middle East questions at the start of his presidency rather than waiting for years like his predecessor George W. Bush, but said he did not want expectations raised too high for swift progress for peace, following the Israeli war against Hamas in Gaza.

Prince Saud also said that Arab nations were ready to discuss with Obama’s administration the Saudi-initiated peace plan which dates back to 2002 calling for a normalization of ties with Israel in return for a full withdrawal from Arab land occupied in 1967.

He said “Arab states… have no reservations in holding a fruitful dialogue to respond to any questions posed by the American administration about the peace plan.”