The United States Tuesday publicly criticized Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for meeting with a Palestinian extremist group’s leaders who are designated terrorists by Washington and have a $5 million bounty for any information on their whereabouts.
Erdogan met with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh and his deputy, Saleh al-Arouri, last weekend in Istanbul and posted a picture of the meeting on the Turkish presidency’s social media.
“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,” a statement from the US State Department said.
We strongly object to President Erdogan hosting two Hamas leaders. Hamas is designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S and EU. This outreach isolates Turkey and undercuts global efforts to counter terrorism. https://t.co/RVEuZPFg6d— Morgan Ortagus (@statedeptspox) August 25, 2020
The statement made note that this was the second time Erdogan hosted the Hamas delegation to Turkey. The first public meeting was Feb. 1.
“The United States strongly objects to Turkish President Erdogan hosting two Hamas leaders in Istanbul on August 22,” the statement added.
Erdogan has come under increased scrutiny for his political and military moves in recent months. The European Union has expressed its frustration with Erdogan and his policies of interference in foreign nations. France has been one of the most outspoken critics. French President Emmanuel Macron has lambasted Turkey for its “aggressive” behavior.
Turkey has also defied US calls to refrain from purchasing Russian air defense systems. This led to the US kicking Turkey out of its F-35 fighter jet program.
“We continue to raise our concerns about the Turkish government’s relationship with Hamas at the highest levels,” the State Department said Tuesday.
Al Arabiya English previously reported about growing calls in Washington to condemn Turkey's behavior. Bipartisan efforts are mounting to change US policy toward Ankara.