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U.S.-Backed Palestinian Government Blasts Turkey Over Announcement That Erdogan Will Visit Gaza Strip In Late May

Officials from the U.S.-backed Palestinian Authority (PA) are blasting Turkey’s announcement that a date has been set for a visit to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which PA officials have lobbied the U.S. to stop:

The PA believes that Erdogan’s visit to the Gaza Strip would deepen Palestinian divisions, said Azzam al-Ahmed, member of the Fatah Central Committee and a close advisor to Abbas. Ahmed said that Abbas was planning to visit Ankara soon in a bid to persuade Erdogan not to go to the Gaza Strip.

“We hope this visit does not take place,” Ahmed said. “Anyone who visits the Gaza Strip without coordination with the Palestinian Authority supports and deepens the split between the West Bank and Gaza Strip.”… A PA official in Ramallah warned Monday that Erdogan’s planned visit would serve to legitimize Hamas’s rule and create the impression that the Gaza Strip is an independent Palestinian entity.

Turkish sources reported over the weekend that Erdogan will visit the territory in late May, after a May 16 trip to the United States in which he is scheduled to meet with President Barack Obama. The Turkish prime minister had initially put off a Gaza visit under U.S. pressure. Iranian media celebrated the announcement.

In addition to being at odds with Israel and the Western-backed Palestinian Authority, Hamas is locked in a kind of cold war with U.S.-backed Egyptian security forces. The Egyptian army has linked the Iran-backed terror group to an August terror attack in which 16 Egyptian soldiers were killed and to ongoing efforts to infiltrate and destabilize the Sinai Peninsula.

U.S. officials have repeatedly expressed concerns over Erdogan’s visit. A bipartisan letter sent to Secretary of State John Kerry — co-authored this month by Reps. Peter Roskam, Brad Sherman, Jeff Duncan, and Dina Titus, and signed by 47 Members of Congress — raised “concerns about Turkey’s relationship with Hamas, a U.S.-government designated foreign terrorist organization” and specifically cited “the political support of high-level visits.”

Analysts worry that the Turkish prime minister is overcompensating in an attempt to save face — at the cost of boosting Hamas — after being maneuvered into accepting Israeli-Turkish reconciliation on terms that he had long rejected as inadequate.

[Photo: Nilgun Gulcan/ Wiki Commons]