Erdogan says over 1,000 Hamas members being treated in hospitals across Turkey

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday that more than 1,000 members of the militant Palestinian group Hamas were being treated in hospitals across Turkey, reiterating his stance that Hamas was a “resistance movement.”

Speaking at a press conference after talks with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in Ankara, Erdogan also said he was saddened by the Greek view that deems Hamas a terrorist organization.

A Turkish official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, later said that Erdogan had meant to refer to Palestinians from Gaza in general, rather than Hamas members.

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“President Erdogan misspoke, he meant 1,000 Gazans are under treatment, not Hamas members,” the Turkish official said.

Greece and Turkey cannot agree on all issues related to the war in Gaza but they can agree that violence must end and a long-term ceasefire is needed, Mitsotakis said.

“Let’s agree to disagree,” Mitsotakis said, responding to Erdogan.

‘No unsolvable problems’

Erdogan told Mitsotakis that there were “no unsolvable problems” between Ankara and Athens.

Turkey and Greece, NATO allies and historic foes, have long been at odds over issues including maritime boundaries, energy resources in the eastern Mediterranean, flights over the Aegean Sea, and ethnically split Cyprus.

After years of tensions that brought the two to the brink of conflict, they have started taking high-profile steps to improve ties, especially since both leaders were re-elected last year.

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“Despite disagreements, we focus on a positive agenda by keeping our dialogue channels open,” Erdogan told a joint press conference with Mitsotakis.

Mitsotakis said the leaders’ frequent meetings in recent months had “proved that we neighbors can establish an approach of mutual understanding, not as an exception but as a productive normality.”

“We showed today that alongside our proven disagreements, we can chart a parallel page of agreements,” he added.

Erdogan visited Athens last December and the two countries signed the “Declaration of Athens” aimed at setting the base for a roadmap to rebooting relations.

They agreed to boost trade, keep communication channels open, carry out military confidence-building measures to reduce tensions, and work on problems that have kept them apart.

‘Unprecedented heights’

On Sunday, Mitsotakis told Turkish daily Milliyet that his visit to Ankara - the first in five years - was an opportunity to evaluate progress and to reiterate Athens’ commitment to improving ties.

Erdogan, speaking to Greek daily Kathimerini on Sunday, said the main goal was to “raise the level of our bilateral relations to unprecedented heights,” adding the neighbors had many issues they could agree on while seeking solutions to their problems.

However, the allies remain at loggerheads over several issues including maritime jurisdiction.

Greece’s plan to build a marine park in the Aegean, which it says is for environmental purposes, has upset Turkey, while Athens was annoyed by Turkey’s decision to turn the ancient Chora church, previously a museum for decades, into a mosque.

With Reuters

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