Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas is in Ankara for a surprise visit to meet Turkish leaders. The trip is of particular importance given the Palestinian Authority’s expected declaration of an independent Palestinian state, and lobby for international support, at the United Nations. Turkish President Abdullah Gul has recently declared Turkey’s support.
During his visit Abbas will also talk about the current situation in Palestinian unity talks. Abbas’s Fatah and Islamic Movement Hamas are trying to solve the problems between them and help the normalisation of diplomatic ties between the West Bank and Gaza.
Turkey, an important actor in the region thanks to its ties with both Palestinians and Israel, is trying to revive the peace process. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan stressed the importance of forming Palestinian groups and used it as leverage on Hamas and Fatah. Turkey was one of the first nations to recognise the Hamas government after the 2006 elections and invited Hamas leader Khalid Mashaal to Turkey in February of that year. This visit put Israel and Turkey at odds but Ankara said it was vital in relaying messages from the West to the leaders of the Islamist movement.
Turkey’s government is expected to help Abbas in convincing Hamas to support his efforts to get international recognition for a Palestinian State.
However Turkey lost its privileged fair-broker status with Israel after the war in Gaza in 2009 and the Mavi Marmara crisis last year, when Israeli commandos attacked an aid flotilla and killed nine Turks in international waters in the Meditterenean. Since then Turkish-Israeli relations have soured. Despite that there are signs of improvement in the relations between the two countries. Haaretz reported that two diplomats worked on a joint statement to overcome the problems. And today, as a sign of warming relations, Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu sent a letter to Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan, and congragulated him on his election success.
Bora Bayraktar, Istanbul