Turkey's President Abdullah Gul has urged the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas to recognise Israel's right to exist, the Wall Street Journal reported on Saturday.The AKP government has had friendly relations with Hamas since 2006 when a five-member delegation led by Meshaal first visited Ankara. Since that time the AKP government has been committed to improving relations between Hamas and the international community, a policy that has won the party few friends in Israel and in certain Washington policy circles. For background on the AKP government's relations with Hamas, see June 10 post.
In an interview a day after U.S. President Barack Obama delivered a speech on the Middle East, Gul also hailed Obama's reference to creating a Palestinian state based on Israel's pre-1967 borders as "a very important step".
Turkey has regarded Hamas as a key factor in the Middle East peace process since it won Palestinian elections in 2006.
Gul said President Obama "has a point" when he said in his speech that Israel could not be expected to negotiate with a body that does not recognise Israel's right to exist.
Asked if he was willing to press Hamas on that issue, Gul said, "I already advised them."
In a meeting with Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal in Ankara in 2006, Gul said he told Meshaal, "you have to be rational" about recognising Israel's right to exist.
Gul said he believed Hamas was ready to recognise Israel in its pre-1967 borders but wants that to happen simultaneously with Israel's recognition of a Palestinian state.
Obama's speech aired live on Turkish state television Thursday night at a time when most Turks are still very much trying to figuring out their own country's position in the post-Arab spring Middle East.
Ankara is expected to facilitate negotiations between Hamas and Fatah next week.