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Turkish FM: Hamas Leader Welcome in Turkey

Turkey’s top diplomat on Wednesday said that Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal was free to come to Turkey, following conflicting reports earlier this week that Meshaal was forced out of Qatar, where he has lived for several years. The reports, first published Monday, indicated that the Hamas leader, along with several members of the Muslim Brotherhood, was expelled from Doha and had discussed with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu the possibility of relocating to Turkey.

The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday conveyed an Arab-language report to the effect that “Qatar has asked Mashaal and Hamas to refrain from conducting any public political activities in the country” as Doha “does not want to be seen as if it continues to support the Muslim Brotherhood,” of which Hamas is an offshoot. FOX News Channel’s James Rosen on Thursday pressed State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki on whether the terror group’s relations with Turkey could potentially place Ankara on a U.S. list of state sponsors of terror. Associated Press diplomatic correspondent Matt Lee pressed further, noting that Turkey “welcoming the leader of a group that [the U.S. has] designated a foreign terrorist organization would certainly seem to be supporting it.” Psaki’s answer was limited to reaffirming Hamas’s position as a designated terrorist organization and noting that Foggy Bottom had expressed concerns over Ankara’s relationship with Hamas.

Psaki had last month said that those concerns had also been conveyed to top Turkish officials following a trip that Meshaal had taken to Turkey. A bipartisan group of lawmakers had in mid-December urged the Treasury Department take additional measures to sanction both Qatar and Turkey if they continued to provide financial and material support to Hamas. Turkey has come under heavy criticism in recent months for harboring Hamas leaders as those leaders actively plot terror attacks in Israel.

[Photo: Foreign and Commonwealth Office/ Flickr]