Turkish media is reporting that Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal (aka Kahled Meshaal) has paid what was described as a “surprise visit” to Ankara in order to meet with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an. According to a report in Today’s Zaman:
8 October 2013 ISTANBUL Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal paid a surprise visit to Ankara, where he met with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an on Tuesday for talks on Palestinian reconciliation and developments in the Middle East. The meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office was announced only two hours before it took place.
A senior Turkish official from the Prime Ministry told Today’s Zaman that the request for the meeting came from the Palestinian side.
According to the official, who chose to remain anonymous, Mashaal and Erdo?an were expected to discuss the current situation in Gaza and regional developments including the prolonged Syrian conflict and the issue of national reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah, which continues to administer the West Bank.
The dispute between the two Palestinian factions has yet to be settled due to a number of disagreements over the distribution of power in a national coalition government and the status of Gaza, which is currently under the control of Hamas.
The secular Fatah and conservative Hamas are seemingly far from reaching a compromise in their political disputes at the moment. Turkey was a strong supporter and lobbied heavily in support of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas when he pushed for recognition of the Palestinian Authority as a non-member observer state in the UN at the end of November.
Turkey also mobilized all its available resources for a cease-fire in November when Israel launched a massive air campaign against Gaza.
Ankara is in addition pushing for a political reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas, saying disunity only harms Palestinian interests.
Ties between Turkey and Hamas, which rules Gaza, have been developing since Turkey’s alliance with Israel collapsed over a deadly raid by Israeli troops on a Turkish aid ship bound for Gaza in 2010.”
In March, we reported that Hamas had re-elected Khaled Meshaal as the head of its political bureau. In September 2012, Reuters reported reported that Meshaal had decided to step down from his position as head of the Hamas political leadership.
According to a BBC profile, Mr. Meshaal (aka Khaled Mishal) joined the Muslim Brotherhood in 1971:
“Mr Meshaal was born in 1956 in the village of Silwad, near the West Bank city of Ramallah. Meshaal has been increasingly important since Sheikh Yassin died. His father, like many other Palestinians, travelled to the Gulf emirate of Kuwait in the 1960s for work. His family followed after the area fell under Israeli occupation in 1967.At school, Mr Meshaal became involved in Palestinian and Islamic activism. He joined the Muslim Brotherhood in 1971. Mr Meshaal continued to take interest political Islam while studying physics at Kuwait University and he founded a student organisation called the List of the Islamic Right. After graduating in 1978, he spent a number of years teaching physics in Kuwait. In 1987, Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood leaders in Gaza founded the Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, in response to a mass uprising against the Israeli occupation. Mr Meshaal became increasingly involved with Hamas over the next few years, leading what was known as the Kuwait contingent of Palestinians who lived and worked there.
Read the rest here.
A 2009 book review provides further detail on Mr. Meshaal’s early activities in the Kuwaiti Muslim Brotherhood.
Despite characterizations of Meshaal as a “relative moderate” in October 2012 Meshaal gave a speech in Cairo in which said that “Nothing will restore the homeland but jihad, the rifle, and self-sacrifice” and that Zionists are the enemies of Allah and of Muhammad, Jesus, Moses, and Abraham – the enemies of the Prophets, of the Messengers, of values, and of morality.’ In December 2012 Meshaal reiterated his call for the complete destruction of Israel during his first ever visit to Gaza in honor of the 25th anniversary of the founding of Hamas.
A 2011 report from the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA) discussed the growing role of Turkey in the Global Muslim Brotherhood, including its support of Hamas. The abstract of that report states:
There is strong evidence for Turkish governmental involvement in the Gaza flotilla incident, with Turkish government support channeled through the Turkish Muslim Brotherhood network. Since 2006, Turkey has become a new center for the Global Muslim Brotherhood.
With respect to the Global Muslim Brotherhood, report’s second conclusion states:
The Gaza flotilla incident brought into sharp focus an even more significant long- term development: the growing relationship between the Erdogan government and the Global Muslim Brotherhood, which has given rise to some of the most notorious Islamist terrorist groups – from al-Qaeda to Hamas. Since 2006, Turkey has become a new center for the Global Muslim Brotherhood, while the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip acted as the main axis for this activity.
(Disclosure: The JCPA report was authored by the GMBDW editor.)
It should be noted that Meshaal’s visit to Turkey likely reflects the ongoing pressure felt by Hamas since the deposition of the Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt.