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U.S. condemns Turkish president's meeting with Hamas

The U.S. Department of State issued a statement Tuesday strongly objecting to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan meeting with Hamas leaders over the weekend. File Photo by Rune Hellestad/UPI
The U.S. Department of State issued a statement Tuesday strongly objecting to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan meeting with Hamas leaders over the weekend. File Photo by Rune Hellestad/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 25 (UPI) -- The United States on Tuesday condemned Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's meeting with Hamas leaders.

"The United States strongly objects to Turkish President Erdogan hosting two Hamas leaders in Istanbul on Aug. 22," U.S. Department of State spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement Tuesday.

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Ortagus also called Hamas a terrorist organization, designated as such by the United States and the European Union, and the two people that Erdogan hosted, specially designated global terrorists.

"The U.S. Rewards for Justice Program is seeking information about one of the individuals for his involvement in multiple terrorist attacks, hijackings and kidnappings," Ortagus said.

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Erdogan previously met with Hamas leadership on Feb. 1, according to the statement.

"President Erdogan's continued outreach to this terrorist organization only serves to isolate Turkey from the international community, harms the interests of the Palestinian people and undercuts global efforts to prevent terrorist attacks launched from Gaza. We continue to raise our concerns about the Turkish government's relationship with Hamas at the highest levels," Ortagus said.

The Jerusalem Post reported that the statement marked a shift in U.S. policy since the United States has previously ignored Turkey's rising support for Hamas, hoping they could work together on regional issues.

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Earlier this month, The Telegraph reported that Turkey granted citizenship to senior operatives of a terrorist cell of Hamas. Last year, The Telegraph revealed from an investigation that Turkey was hosting Hamas leaders and allowing them to plot attacks from Istanbul.

While the United States and the EU have designated Hamas a terrorist organization, Turkey argues that the group is a legitimate political organization, referring to it being democratically elected in the Palestinian legislative elections in 2006 and the violent removal of Fatah members from the Gaza Strip.

Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, who died in 2004, had said in an interview with UPI that they are fighting Israeli occupation in Palestinian areas. He was killed in an Israeli air strike on March 22, 2004.

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Earlier this month, a Defense Department Inspector General's report said Turkey, a NATO member, remains a regional transit hub for Islamic State terrorists.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry more recently criticized U.S. President Donald Trump's deal to normalize ties between Israel and the United Arab Emirates as part of a Middle East Peace plan, saying that the Persian Gulf state has abandoned Palestinians in fighting for their homeland.

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"The UAE, which is pursuing secret ambitions over a U.S. plan that is stillborn and null and void, ignores the willpower of Palestine," a statement from the ministry said.

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