The Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has said that peace cannot be achieved in either Palestine or the region without the involvement of the Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas. Mr Erdogan also described the current Israeli administration under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as "possibly the worst" government in the history of Israel.
Appearing on the Wednesday night edition of the al-Jazeera programme 'without borders', Erdogan asserted that Hamas "is not a terrorist organisation" and that its members were "people defending their homeland." He also stated that it was a "movement that had entered elections and won, and whoever seeks to depose it from government should be seen as enemies of democracy."
Mr Erdogan said that Hamas "was not given a chance, rather it was denied every opportunity and every obstacle was placed in its way; both its ministers and deputies were imprisoned" and he wondered "what manner of democracy is this? On the contrary, this is anti-democratic."
Erdogan disclosed that he had told the international peace envoy for the Middle East Quartet, Tony Blair, that Hamas is a party to the issue and that "any table around which Hamas is not seated, will never result in peace", he went on; "I told him that both the Palestinian National Liberation Movement, Fatah, and Hamas are important elements in Palestine, and if you look to one party without the other, Palestinian peace will never materialise."
Relations with Israel
With regard to the Turkish-Israeli relationship that came under considerable strain following Israel's aggression against Gaza in 2008/9, and was further aggravated following Israel's attack on the Freedom Flotilla carrying humanitarian aid to the beleaguered sector at the end of May last year, Erdogan said; "If the Netanyahu government does not change its policies, then it should expect no change in our position."
He added that the Netanyahu government was "possibly the worst or the least fortunate" in the history of Israel and confirmed that Turkey would not sit around the same table as Israel as long as it does not change its policies. He said "We will not re-new agreements previously signed with Israel which will be a loss for it, as after Turkey, they will not find another regional state willing to sit down with them."
Erdogan reiterated the conditions he previously stipulated in return for the restoration of relations with Israel. Namely, that Israel should apologise to Turkey and pay reparations to the families of the nine Turks killed in the attack on the Flotilla and that it should lift the siege on Gaza. He added that "when they respond to these conditions we will reassess the situation."
In connection with earlier statements made by the Israeli Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, who stated that Turkey's request for an apology was "tantamount to audacity", Erdogan commented that "he who spoke of Turkey's rights as being insignificant is an individual who ought to look in the mirror where he will see a man who has assumed every manner of insignificance."
He said that Lieberman was "a problem at the head of Israel and that Israelis ought to get rid of him, this is definitely their duty and not ours, and if they do not get rid of him, then the problems facing the Israeli people in the future will be endless."