US harshly criticizes Turkey’s Erdoğan for hosting Hamas leaders: report

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US Department of State building.

The United States said on Tuesday it strongly objected to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s recent hosting of two leaders of Hamas in İstanbul, prompting a swift riposte from Ankara, Reuters reported.

The State Department said the officials were Specially Designated Global Terrorists and that the United States was seeking information about one for his involvement in multiple terrorist attacks, hijackings and kidnappings.

A Turkish government statement on Saturday said Erdoğan received Ismail Haniyeh, head of the Hamas Political Bureau, and an accompanying delegation.

On Tuesday Turkey’s foreign ministry said Ankara “fully rejects” the US criticism and called on Washington to use its influence for a “balanced policy” that will help solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, instead of “serving Israel’s interests.”

The State Department said the Saturday meeting was the second time this year Erdoğan had welcomed leaders of the armed Islamist group that has controlled Gaza for over a decade, after a meeting on Feb. 1.

“President Erdogan’s continued outreach to this terrorist organization only serves to isolate Turkey from the international community, harms the interests of the Palestinian people, and undercuts global efforts to prevent terrorist attacks launched from Gaza,” it said in a statement.

“We continue to raise our concerns about the Turkish government’s relationship with Hamas at the highest levels.”

US ties with NATO ally Turkey have been strained over a variety of issues including Ankara’s purchase of a Russian S-400 defense system, which prompted Washington to suspend Turkish involvement in its F-35 jet program and threaten sanctions.

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