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Hamas chief meets Turkish leaders in Ankara

Meanwhile, a scheduled Iranian visit to Turkey was postponed
Turkey's then Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan shakes hands with Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal during their meeting in Ankara on 16 March 2012 (AFP)

Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal held closed-door talks with Turkish leaders in Ankara late on Wednesday, officials said.

Meshaal, who often shows up at events hosted by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

No statement was made to the press after the talks.

The visit came just weeks after Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon accused Turkey of hosting a senior member of the Hamas movement's exiled leadership who was actively planning attacks.

Attempts to activate cells in the West Bank originate in "Hamas headquarters in Gaza and Istanbul, from where Salah Aruri plans severe attacks against us by proxies in the West Bank and in neighbouring countries," he said.

"Salah Aruri is acting from Turkey - a NATO member, which at the same time allows a terror base on its territory," he charged.

Israeli media subsequently reported that Turkey had bowed to the US pressure and agreed to order Aruri to leave the country.

A Turkish official on Wednesday said that Aruri was not in Turkey.

"He is not in Turkey according to information I have," said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

While Hamas and Turkish relations are continuing to flourish, Iranian-Turkish relations seem to be at a standstill.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Tuesday postponed a scheduled visit to Turkey, officials said, with mystery surrounding the reason for the last-minute cancellation.

The visit had been expected to touch on the Syria crisis, which has caused profound disagreements between Tehran and Ankara, with Iran one of the last allies of Turkey's arch foe President Bashar al-Assad.

"There has been a change in the programme," the Turkish official said, without giving any reason.

Iran's official IRNA agency also cited an Iranian foreign ministry official as saying the visit had been postponed due to "scheduling problems".

Zarif had been due to meet Turkey's leaders in the capital Ankara but there were conflicting reports over whether he was to have met President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

In the meantime, Arabic media reported on Sunday that the visit of a Hamas delegation to Iran was cancelled after Meshaal visited Saudi Arabia last month.

It was the first visit in three years, and coincided with the historic Iranian nuclear deal, a historic moment perceived as a big threat to Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Gulf states.

While Hamas’s visit to Saudi Arabia evoked strong reactions from several regional governments, the strongest reaction came from Iran, reported the Gulf news website New Khaleej.

A senior Iranian official in the Iranian Revolutionary Guards told Hamas representatives after their Saudi visit that Iran was deeply disappointed with Hamas’s visit to Saudi Arabia, reported New Khaleej.

Iran had perceived Hamas’s visit to Saudi Arabia as an attack from Kingdom toward Iran.

Saudi Arabia is seeking to limit growing Iranian influence in the Arab region by re-invigorating ties with Egypt and Turkey. Riyadh also wants to re-embrace the Palestinian resistance, after Tehran supported it at a time when Arab states abandoned it and accused Hamas of terrorism. 

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