In February 2006 (after Hamas won a democratic election in January) Prime Minister Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) hosted a Hamas delegationin in what AKP said was a bid to convince the group to moderate its policies
Shimon Peres steps in to soften Jewish lobby's backlash over Hamas visit
Israeli moderate leader Peres takes mediator role between Turkey and American Jewish lobby as Jewish groups criticize Ankara over Hamas visit. In his meeting with Jewish representatives, Peres asks for continued support for Turkey, which is significant ahead of April 24, anniversary of so-called Armenian genocide
Robert Wexler, pro-Turkish Congressman, will visit Turkey on Thursday to express behind the closed doors Washington's concerns and disappointment over the visit of Hamas
Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Tuygan goes to Israel to meet his Israel counterpart and discuss bilateral relations, recent regional and intl developments
Shimon Peres, a moderate Israeli political leader and prominent figure in the leading Kadima party, last week took a mediating role between Turkey and the American Jewish lobby during his visit to Washington., trying to soften negative reaction to last month's Hamas visit to Ankara, diplomatic sources told The New Anatolian.
Peres's visit with the representatives of Jewish lobby was significant ahead of April 24, the so- called anniversary of the Armenian "genocide," when the Armenian lobby steps up its campaign for the recognition of the so-called genocide in the U.S. Congress. The Jewish lobby so far backed Turkish efforts to block any resolution referring to Armenian genocide claims. But following the Turkish government's meeting with Hamas representatives last month, important members of the American Jewish lobby strongly criticized Ankara and gave signs of withdrawing this key support.
The exiled political leader of Hamas, Khaled Mashaal, visited Ankara last month, triggering a diplomatic rift between Israel and Turkey. Ankara rejected Israeli criticism of the visit and said an Israeli spokesman's comparison of the Palestinian group to Kurdish guerrillas in Turkey was an "unfortunate statement." Later the Turkish and Israeli prime ministers talked on the phone and agreed not to let disagreement on Hamas ruin the overall relations and bilateral cooperation which is significant for both countries.
Jewish-American groups were very furious with Ankara over the Hamas visit, suggesting that the Turkish government's move to engage with the radical group would "lead to consequences." U.S. Congressman Tom Lantos, a Jewish-American who is the only Holocaust survivor ever to serve in the U.S. Congress, sent a protest letter to Erdogan due to his party's talks with Hamas. Lantos warned that the meeting with Hamas would seriously damage Turkey's national interests, its fight against terrorism and relations with the United States.
Critical visit from US Congressman Wexler to Turkey
While Ankara tried to ease the concerns of Jewish lobby through several meetings, it also finalized preparations to host an important U.S. delegation chaired by Congressman Robert Wexler.
Wexler, who is Jewish and also chairman of Turkish-American Caucus that supports Turkey against the Armenian "genocide" motions, will begin his contacts in Ankara on Thursday. According to sources Wexler will express behind closed doors Washington's concerns and disappointment over the visit of Hamas.
Ankara, for its part, is expected to clarify the reasons for organizing the visit of Hamas to Turkey and explain in detail the messages conveyed to Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal during the visit, sources added. Turkish officials will also seek the continuation of Wexler's support for efforts to block Armenian genocide claim resolutions in Congress, the sources said.
Turkish undersecretary to visit Israel
The Turkish Foreign Ministry announced yesterday that the Undersecretary Ambassador Ali Tuygan went to Israel on Monday for a two-day visit. Tuygan will meet with his Israel counterpart Ron Prosor today to discuss bilateral relations, recent regional and international developments, the statement added.
ABHaber 07.03.2006 The New Anatolian
congressman sends protest note to Erdogan over Hamas visit
FEB. 23 2006 www.ntvmsnbc.com/news/362624.asp
The congressman equated the leader of Hamas’ political wing with the leader of the terrorist group the PKK.
ANKARA - The head of the Jewish lobby in the US Congress, Tom Lantos, has sent a letter of protest to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan concerning the visit last week of a senior official of the Palestinian group Hamas to Ankara.
A Jewish-American congressman in
the United States has sent a letter to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in
protest of talks Erdoğan's Justice and Development Party (AKP)
ANKARA - Turkish Daily News
A Jewish-American congressman in the United States has sent a letter to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in protest of talks Erdoğan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) held with the radical Palestinian organization Hamas in Ankara last week, reported NTV yesterday.
Rep. Tom Lantos, the only Holocaust survivor ever to serve in the U.S. Congress, asserted in his letter that the meeting with Hamas would seriously damage Turkey's national interests, its fight against terrorism and overall relations with the United States.
“Your invitation to Hamas has weakened those who really want peace and oppose terrorism and also [weakened] Palestinian leaders urging Hamas to quit its poisonous policies,” Lantos said in his letter to Erdoğan.
© 2005 Dogan Daily News Inc. www.turkishdailynews.com.tr
WASHINGTON - Egemen Bagis, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's foreign policy adviser and Justice & Development Party (AKP) deputy, met Congress members and representatives of Turkish community in Washington on Wednesday.
Bagis, who is currently in Washington to attend the 25th annual conference of American-Turkish Council and Turkish-U.S. Business Council, held meetings with Ed Whitfield and Robert Wexler, founders of Turkish Friendship Group in U.S. Congress, as well as officials of Assembly of Turkish American Associations (ATAA).
Speaking to A.A regarding his meetings in Washington, Bagis said, ''we have discussed Turkish-U.S. relations, increasing trade with Iraq and Afghanistan as well as allegations of so-called Armenian genocide in the meetings.''
''While April 24th (the date Armenians accepted as anniversary of so-called genocide) is getting closer, U.S. Congress' support to Turkey continues. There is no negative atmosphere,'' he noted.
''I explained Turkey's efforts to settle stability in Iraq. After the United States, Turkey is the second country with the highest number of losses (truck drivers, engineers and workers) in Iraq. Turkey exerted great efforts to convince Iraqi Sunnites to take part in elections in Iraq. I also conveyed that bases in Turkey are used for soldier rotation, and Turkey sent humanitarian aid to Iraq. Congress members told me that they appreciated Turkey's friendship,'' said Bagis.
''U.S. officials asked me about the invitation of Hamas delegation to Turkey. The visit of Hamas delegation should be considered as the continuation of the will which brought together the foreign ministers of Israel and Pakistan, and which supported participation of Sunnite leaders in elections in Iraq. Turkey has exerted and will exert every type of effort to prevent death of innocent people in the region. International community was aware of Hamas' participation in elections, and Hamas won the elections. After it was elected, Turkey directly gave messages to Hamas which could not be given by other countries. This is a part of our geographical and historical responsibility,'' said Bagis.
Three senior Hamas members said their group has been talking to European Union diplomats regularly. EU officials denied the contacts, but acknowledged that meetings with Hamas may be inevitable now that Hamas won control of dozens of West Bank and Gaza towns in recent local elections.
"We believe Europeans should be strengthening moderate Palestinians and not appeasing the extremists," said Israel Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev. "Anything that demonstrates acceptance of Hamas as a legitimate player is a problem."
Both the U.S. and the EU list Hamas as a terrorist group, but its strong showing in local votes poses a dilemma for the West, which must figure out how to handle existing aid projects in towns now run by Hamas-backed mayors.
Hamas members said Thursday their group is in contact with EU diplomats, and the meetings have grown more frequent following Hamas' victory in more than a third of 120 towns up for grabs in three rounds of municipal voting since December.
"Every 10 days to two weeks we have at least one meeting with a European diplomat," said Mohammed Ghazal, a senior Hamas representative in the West Bank.
Israel and the U.S. lobbied hard in 2003 for Europe to include Hamas on its terrorist list. Signs that Europe may now be softening that stance — including calls by some to differentiate between Hamas' political and military wings — have alarmed Israeli officials, who said they've expressed their displeasure to EU officials, including during discussions on Thursday.
"The EU has put Hamas on its list of terrorist organizations, and since this decision has been taken there's been no change in Hamas that would signal any change in the character of that organization," Regev said. "Hamas is a murderous terrorist movement that has been responsible for countless acts of suicide bombings throughout Israel against innocent civilians." Hundreds of Israelis have been killed in bombings during more than four years of violence.
In Brussels, EU official Elena Peresso said the EU "was not aware of any contacts" and has reached no collective decision on whether to change its policy toward Hamas.
"Hamas is still on the terrorist list," she said.
Added Bob Hiensch, Holland's ambassador to Israel: "It's very clear that we will not have a political dialogue with Hamas as long as they do not denounce all acts of violence and explicitly recognize Israel's right to exist."
He did not rule out, however, that member states may be meeting on their own with Hamas but said "it's not a European decision." Hiensch said the EU was still deciding what to do about contacts with Hamas-backed mayors in towns where Europeans have current aid projects.
"That is a dilemma we are facing, very clearly, but the Americans are also facing it," Hiensch said.
The United States has held to its policy of not speaking to Hamas members, though current U.S. aid projects in Hamas-run towns have not been halted. U.S. officials say they are still debating what to do about future aid projects in those towns.
Some, especially in the EU, have argued that talking to Hamas could help curb its extremist tendencies. Others say the contact will only prop up violent hard-liners.
Mushir al-Masri, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, said EU diplomats have discussed both municipal and wider political issues with Hamas mayors, including the current cease-fire with Israel.
Al-Masri and other Hamas members said the European officials spoke of the need for Hamas to disarm, but they responded by saying Israel's occupation would have to end first.
"In all the meetings ... we affirmed that ending the role of Hamas' armed wing is linked to the end of the Zionist occupation of the Palestinian lands, and we will affirm this stand in any meeting in the future," al-Masri said.
Ghazal said most of the contacts in the West Bank and Gaza were with lower level EU diplomats, but that higher level contacts between the EU and Hamas were taking place abroad. He did not elaborate.
Moussa Abu Marzouk, a Syria-based Hamas leader, said in an interview Thursday on a Hamas Web site that members of his group had met with British ex-security officials and other European officials.
In other developments Thursday:
•Palestinian Interior Ministry spokesman Tawfiq Abu Khoussa said Israeli and Palestinian security commanders have agreed to set up a "joint operations" panel for Israel's planned pullout from the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank starting in August.
•Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon insisted the pullout will take place on schedule, "despite opposition, incitement through lies, blocking of highways and vulgar threats." Speaking in Tel Aviv, he said: "We will do this because it is good for Israel."
•Israeli undercover troops arrested Mohammed Jaradat, a senior official of the militant Islamic Jihad group, in the West Bank town of Jenin. A military statement said four other Islamic Jihad activists were arrested Wednesday night.
•Diplomatic activity intensified ahead of a weekend visit to the region by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, with U.S. and Palestinian officials meeting in the West Bank.
AJC to South America: Don't invite Hamas
The American Jewish Committee is lobbying Argentina and Brazil to refrain from inviting Hamas to visit their countries,
on the heels of Venezuela's invitation to the new leaders of the Palestinian Legislative Council.
"Hamas itself is very interested in going beyond the more ideological countries like Venezuela and Cuba and would like to be received in some of the major countries like Brazil and Argentina," AJC Executive Director David Harris told The Jerusalem Post while in Israel to mark his organization's 100th anniversary.
"Obviously we're very hopeful that responsible countries like Brazil and Argentina will understand that it would be a gross error if they agreed to invite a Hamas delegation," he continued. "It will add nothing to the equation but it will certainly have the effect of conferring legitimacy on Hamas and further undermining any prospects of peace in this region."
Harris noted his disappointment with countries such as Turkey and Russia that have already hosted the leaders of the terrorist organization. He noted that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov recently met with the AJC and told the group that the Hamas meeting had only served to pressure the new legislators to adhere to the Quartet's demands that they refrain from violence, recognize Israel and accept previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements.
Harris said that Turkey had similar explanations and that it was time to "move on" from the issue of the Hamas visit to Ankara.
The AJC has nurtured relations with Turkey for years, and Harris said that "the Turkish-Israeli relationship is so wide and so deep and so important to both sides that as problematic as this visit was, there's far more to the relationship. In my judgment, it would be shortsighted to allow an entire relationship, which is of such consequence, to be held hostage to such an issue." Harris said the major issue now was to make sure the trip was a one-time event.
He added, "I don't doubt the Turkish good intentions. We felt that in this particular case they were misguided."
In fact, Harris described all the overtures made to Hamas as well-meaning. But he said he opposed those acts, and suggested that the international community had failed to learn its lesson from engaging Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
"They did not persuade Arafat to change his stripes, but at the same time they divided the world," he charged.
Harris also expressed outrage at the recent study out of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government claiming that the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC leads the US to act against its own interests.
"We shouldn't be blinded by the Harvard imprimatur," he warned. "Harvard has such a magical name in the academic world that many simply defer to whatever comes out of Cambridge, Massachusetts."
He pointed to another recently published study listing Israel as the third
most-liked country by Americans.
"That is far more reflective of the American attitude toward Israel and that obviously goes far beyond the Jewish community or the reach of Jewish organizations," he said. "That's far more explained by the fact that within the American DNA, being understanding of and sympathetic to Israel comes quite naturally to many."
This hearing could not be more timely, since the officially-designated terrorist organization Hamas will form its cabinet sometime this month. It is bizarre that some governments are still deciding how to respond to this political farce.
So there could be no better time to remind everyone of what’s at stake. Here is a salient quote from the charter of Hamas:
“Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.”
Mr. Chairman, this hate-filled screed, the Hamas Charter, takes venom to new levels. It indicates that giving an inch of ground, literally or figuratively, is tantamount to renouncing Islam. And Hamas leaders have not changed their rhetoric one iota since winning the election. Far from it.
Hamas leaders are now holding out their hands and asking U.S. taxpayers to continue the flow of dollars. But the blood of dozens of Americans and hundreds of Israeli men, women and children is on those hands.
It has long been U.S. policy not to support terrorists in any way. We must make absolutely clear that we will not deal with the terrorist thugs who now lead the Palestinian Authority.
Not a single penny of US taxpayer money should end up in Hamas coffers. My good friend Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and I have introduced legislation, H.R. 4681, that turns this basic principle into law.
I also want to make clear that simply ending direct assistance to the Palestinian Authority doesn’t cut it. There must be an end to all non-humanitarian assistance that could benefit Hamas. The last thing in the world we in Congress want to do is let a Hamas government reap the credit for development projects that are funded by the American taxpayer.
Of course, I support the continuation of humanitarian assistance to the Palestinians. But we must be clear about how we define such aid. The phrase “humanitarian assistance” means just what it says. And it is clearly defined in our legislation – food, water and medicine.
The United States must respond to this new situation with honor and integrity: no negotiations, no contact, no assistance beyond humanitarian aid. We have a standard that this country has long maintained, we have a statute now in the works, and we have an example to set in the eyes of the world.
And we should make clear to all, Mr. Chairman that we strongly oppose their hosting or meeting with Hamas.
I am deeply disappointed by the Turkish and Russian decisions to host Hamas. The words and deeds of this gang of terrorist thugs put them beyond the pale of organizations that governments should deal with. And the fact that these invitations have come from two countries with their own terrorist problems, countries that stridently demand that nobody meet with the terrorist groups that threaten them, is sickening hypocrisy.
Mr. Chairman, let me briefly turn to a matter of critical national security that is directly within our witness’ purview: the pending transfer of the management of six key American ports to a company owned by the government of Dubai, a part of the United Arab Emirates.
Five years ago, the UAE governments looked the other way as their citizens helped plan and execute the September 11th attacks on the United States. Financing for the attacks was arranged through their banks, and two of the hijackers were their citizens. They have held telethons for terrorists.
Mr. Chairman, the government officials who were in charge five years are still in power today. Yet without any consultation with Congress, the Administration cleared the sale of the uniquely sensitive management of six major United States ports to Dubai Ports World, a company owned and controlled by that government.
While some have breathed a sigh of relief that there is now a 45-day review of the deal, I am totally unimpressed. This deal is being concluded today. Does anyone really believe that the review will reverse that? It is a bureaucratic fiction, a fig leaf for the appalling truth. We will know how bad this deal was only when it is too late.
In addition to the security concerns, it is simply outrageous that we would turn over management of ports to a company that, by their own admission, actively participates in the Arab League Boycott of Israel, our ally and the only democracy in the Middle East. American firms are prohibited from complying with the boycott, yet now the Administration seems willing to turn over our critical ports to governments that actively discriminate.
Mr. Chairman, the foreign policy and national security implications of the Dubai Ports World deal are staggering. I therefore respectfully and formally request that our Committee schedule a hearing on this important subject in the immediate future, leading to legislation that will prevent such lunacy once and for all.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.