News Analysis: Palestinian rivals compete for Turkey's support

2013-04-24 12:57:36 GMT2013-04-24 20:57:36(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

by Saud Abu Ramadan

GAZA, April 24 (Xinhua) -- The Palestinian Islamic Hamas movement and President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah Party have been struggling to gain the support from Ankara as Turkey's regional sway grows, observers said.

Their competition turns fiercer after the insistence of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who belongs to a Turkish party that adopts modern Islam, to visit the Gaza Strip soon.

INSISTENCE TO VISIT GAZA

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Abbas have failed to convince Erdogan to cancel his visit to the besieged enclave, which has been ruled by Hamas since 2007.

The two separately visited Ankara earlier this week for talks with Erdogan to persuade him not to visit Gaza. However, Erdogan said later that his planned visit to Gaza is still on his agenda in the coming period.

Erdogan said he will pay an official visit to the Gaza Strip after Israel officially apologized to Turkey for the 2010 deadly Israeli attack on a Gaza-bound Turkish aid flotilla. Hamas movement warmly welcomed the visit.

But earlier reports quoted senior Fatah officials as denying that Abbas is seeking a real and serious Turkish involvement in the efforts to finalize the internal Palestinian reconciliation, so as to replace Egypt, which has been sponsoring the dialogue since 2006.

Ahmad Awad, a West Bank-based political analyst, told Xinhua that Turkey has been engaged in three major roles in the region, namely in Iraq, in Syria and in the Palestinian territories.

"Turkey failed in the Iraqi and Syrian issues and now it wants to empower its involvement in the Palestinian issue," Awad said.

"Turkey managed to enhance relations with Hamas on one hand and with the Palestinian people and President Abbas on the other. I believe, despite the fact that Turkey is smelled Islamic, it always tries to be balanced and get more involved in solving the Israeli-Arab conflicts," he said.

However, Turkey has its own calculations in equally supporting the Palestinian rivals and the Palestinian people. It wants to have economic and cultural power and expansion in the region for being used in its struggle to join the European Union.

FATAH'S CONCERN

Abbas has been trying over the past six years to undermine Hamas in order to oblige the Islamic movement to accept his terms during the internal-Palestinian dialogue, no matter who sponsors it.

Meanwhile, he diplomatically and politically worked hard to show the real face of Hamas: not only an Islamic Palestinian resistance movement that fights Israel, but also a political group wishing to be part of the regional equation and only caring about its own interests.

"I believe that the growing role of Turkey would help one day not to completely end the Israeli blockade and the international embargo that had been imposed on the Gaza Strip and on Hamas for six years, but at least softening it," said Hani al-Basoos, a Gaza- based political analyst.

Abbas is always concerned that the visit of Erdogan, or any other high-ranking diplomat to the Gaza Strip, "would give Hamas power and would increase its stubbornness to achieve reconciliation, end its takeover of the Gaza Strip and go for holding the general elections," al-Basoos said.

"Turkey is trying to convince Abbas that ending the blockade that is imposed on the Gaza Strip is not going to happen for free without making Hamas paying the price. This price will be at leasing asking Hamas to condemn terrorism and accept the peace treaties reached with Israel," al-Basoos added.

HAMAS' CONCERN

Ahmed Yousef, a senior Hamas official and a political aide to Hamas premiership, told Xinhua that "Hamas considers Turkey as a country that plays a central role in the region. So it can heavily contribute to defending and aiding the Palestinian people and developing the Gaza Strip."

"We appreciate Turkey's political support mainly when Erdogan asked Israel to end its siege imposed on Gaza. Hamas expected that the siege would be ended immediately, but I personally don't believe that this will happen soon, because Israel hasn't listened to Erdogan and end the siege," Yousef said.

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